3-D technology manufacturers look for buyers at CES

It’s a year later, with a new chance to get it right. That’s at least the thinking of consumer electronics manufacturers and programmers at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. After a dismal holiday sales season, too much is a stake to give up so easily.

Many blame the 3-D failures of 2010 on a lack of 3-D content and those pesky 3-D glasses that consumers dislike so much; also, home 3-D systems were too expensive.

On the content side, Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX are at it again, after announcing a partnership for a 3-D channel last year. This year, they are expected to unveil the name of the new network and perhaps say when it will go on the air.

Based in Culver City, CA, the new network has temporarily called itself 3D Net and has already announced parts of its programming lineup. It’s a mishmash of 3-D content that includes extreme action sports, IMAX and animation.

HBO also plans to debut a slate of 3-D movies on-demand with Comcast and Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV; details are expected to be revealed in Las Vegas.

As to those glasses, we’ll soon find whether a trend takes hold to support cheaper, more comfortable, passive glasses, rather than the more elaborate and expensive active-shutter glasses of 2010. The passive, polarized glasses are similar to those used in movie theaters.

Expecting to join the passive glasses trend is Vizio, who will show off a 65in Razor LED LCD HDTV at the show. Its technology produces “clear, flicker-free 3-D images that are noticeably brighter than conventional 3-D,” Vizio claimed. The package comes with four sets of passive 3-D glasses.

Samsung has introduced new super-thin, HD models for the show, but has yet to say whether the glasses are active or passive.

Toshiba has gone without glasses altogether for its auto-stereoscopic consumer 3-D TV; however, the Toshiba sets are more expensive than glasses-based 3-D TVs and require viewers to sit fairly still to preserve the 3-D illusion.

LG is scheduled to do the first public demonstration of 3-D TV transmitted by mobile DTV at CES. It will be part of an effort by manufacturers and broadcasters to promote mobile DTV technology.

In addition, Broadcom will demonstrate a supercharged, set-top 3-D system-on-a-chip that will feature more than twice the horsepower of previous generations. The new chip will deliver full-resolution 3-D TV, as opposed to today’s frame-compatible format that requires no new video delivery infrastructure.

So far, sales of 3-D TV sets have been dismal. Less than 1 percent of U.S. homes have a 3-D set, while 61 percent have at least one HDTV set, according to the Leichtman Research Group. Only 8 percent of those in the United States are even interested in buying a 3-D set.