Glasses-free 3D LCD TVs likely out by 2015

ITRI showed off a 42-inch glasses-free 3D LCD TV in Taipei

Consumers will likely see 3D LCD TVs that don't require people to wear polarized glasses out on global markets by 2015, according to a Taiwanese research group that showed off an early version of such a device this week.

Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) displayed a 42-inch glasses-free 3D LCD TV this week, and the company can currently make them with screens as large as 65 inches, according to Stephen Jeng, director of ITRI's 3D System & Application Division.

The technology is considered vital to getting 3D into more people's living rooms. Analysts say most people don't want to wear polarized glasses to watch 3D TV, and many balk at the price, up to $200 per pair for some of the glasses. The high price might make a person think twice about hosting a World Cup or Super Bowl party with friends.

Jeng says ITRI's technology will be used in digital signs and 3D digital photo-frames initially. The main issues for glasses-free 3D TV are broadcasting, availability of content, and eye safety, he said. Small quantities of glasses-free digital signage and 3D photo frames are already available on the market, he said, but may yet take a year or two to take off.

The glasses-free 3D LCD TV on display from ITRI this week showed pictures of objects that ITRI's software converted into a 3D image. The image was blurry and the technology appears to still be a long way from being ready.

The research group is using parallax barrier technology to create the 3D effect on the TV. The TV was branded Chi Mei, from Chimei Innolux, but Jeng said the company gave ITRI a regular LCD TV to use for the show and that ITRI added its 3D technology to the set on display. Chimei Innolux is not making glasses-free 3D TVs.

A number of companies are working on glasses-free 3D TVs, mainly in Japan and South Korea.

The 3D TV concept took off early this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as most major TV makers, including Samsung Electronics, showed off sets that are 3D-capable, meaning people can use them as regular high definition (2-dimensional) TVs or as 3D TVs.

The global 3D TV market this year will likely reach 6.2 million units, according to market researcher Displaybank, with sales growing to 33 million units by 2012.

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