A market research firm in our industry, Insight Media, focuses on emerging display technologies. Its market coverage ranges everywhere from e-paper to OLED to 3-D displays, and it produces newsletters and market reports on this entire range of technology. “Large Display Report” and “Mobile Display Report” are the two monthly newsletters. Following this year's CES show, the company also released a special report on 3-D HDTV titled “3D at CES 2011 Special Report.”
In February 2010, in the midst of wildly aggressive market forecasts for the sales of 3-D HDTV sets by manufacturers and industry pundits alike, Insight Media sailed against the tide. For example, at the 2010 CES, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) projected sales of 4 million 3-D sets for the year, a forecast it subsequently lowered significantly. Insight Media, rather than succumbing to the unbridled 3-D enthusiasm of the time, forecasted sales at what then seemed a paltry 1.1 million sets for the year. In early 2011, when the CEA started to release preliminary data, it posted the sales of 3-D HDTV sets for 2010 at … yep, 1.1 million.
The 100-plus page special report covers 3-D products, content and technology not only gleaned from the CES show floor but also derived from off-floor meetings and follow-up discussions.
My conviction continues to be that 3-D HDTV will remain very much a niche vehicle for entertainment television until the advent of high-quality, large-screen, nonstomach upsetting autostereoscopic (AS-3D) displays. Given that, naturally, the first portion of the report I turned to was the section designated “AS-3D Displays & Products.” I concluded that, no surprise, we're not there yet.
Acceptable AS-3D technology is basically still limited to small-screen and portable devices. Lenticular and parallax barrier are the primary technologies that are being used for small-screen devices and seem to be meeting with some degree of acceptance. At CES, there were some future technology large-screen prototypes on display, but the only thing that they convinced viewers of was that it really is future technology — well off into the future! No discussion of glassless 3-D can be complete without mention of fast-blinking technology, and the term technology, as applied here, is tongue in cheek.
Around the time of CES, Jonathan Post, a small post house in Brazil, circulated a video on the Internet demonstrating 3-D viewing without glasses by using a display that had a 120MHz refresh rate and having the viewer blink at the appropriate rate, thus creating a faux shuttered lens viewing experience. Some of the technical cognoscenti were even sucked in by this scheme. The video went viral on the Internet, actually creating arguments in technical circles over the veracity and viability of the concept! Can there be any more convincing argument than this that 3-D is way overhyped today?
For more information about 3-D technology, subscribe to Broadcast Engineering magazine's “3-D Technology” e-newsletter at http://broadcastengineering.com/newsletters.
Anthony R. Gargano is a consultant and former industry executive.
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