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TV set manufacturers declare war over 3-D technologies

Samsung Electronics (opens in new tab), with a 60 percent share of the global 3-D TV set market, and LG Electronics (opens in new tab) are engaged in a growing feud over which 3-D technology is best for home use. At stake is millions of dollars from a wide range of manufacturers who build 3-D TV sets.

During the CES show in January, LG-owned LG Display came to market with a revamped 3-D technology called film patterned retarder (FPR). It is now challenging Samsung’s de facto industry-standard shuttle-glass (SG) display, now used by Sony, Panasonic, Sharp (opens in new tab) and others.

LG is currently demonstrating its technology for Sony and other manufacturers.

“We’ve explained FPR technology to our major customers. Sony is one of them, and they are reviewing it,” LG Display CEO Kwon Young-soo told reporters recently. LG is also quietly forming its own group of TV manufacturers to embrace the technology that includes Vizio, Toshiba and a roster of Chinese TV makers.

LG said its FPR technology addresses consumer concerns over blurry and flickering images. It uses glasses two to three times lighter than the previous bulky eyewear required for 3-D viewing. FPR viewing can also be done lying down on a sofa, whereas SG requires the viewer to sit upright, LG claimed in an ad.

Samsung held a news conference where its executive described LG engineers as “stupid” and LG’s technology as outdated. And, as to the ad about viewing 3-D while lying down, Samsung responded, “3-D just doesn’t work when you lie down sideways. It only makes you feel all the more dizzy,” said Kim Hyun-suk, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics’ visual display division. “Even renowned international organizations advised viewers to watch the 3-D TV horizontally.”

Kim said that because all 3-D pictures are being captured and saved horizontally by two sets of cameras, the human brain can’t properly figure out the image when watching the screen vertically. LG continues to dispute that.

Samsung’s technology shows 1080 pixels to the right eye while blocking signals to the left eye; it then repeats this process for the left eye. Using special battery-charged glasses, this creates a 3-D image.

LG’s FPR technology, by contrast, sends 540 pixels to both eyes simultaneously with different images for the right and left eye, which are recognized as 1080-pixel 3-D images by the human brain. This technique requires much lighter glasses.

LG recently angered Samsung by claiming that FPR was second-generation 3-D technology that the market was evolving toward. Samsung countered, describing FPR as passive-type technology that dated back to 1935.

Samsung also ran an ad campaign in which it described the technological difference between its product and its competitor’s as one of “night and day.”

The feud between the manufacturers comes during a period of razor-thin margins and growing price competition on 3-D sets in a commodity-driven market. Samsung predicts that the world market for 3-D TV to grow more than fivefold this year to 17 million. That would be up from 3 million 3-D sets sold in 2010.