Talk about awkward timing. Three big TV-set makers and a 3D technology company unveiled plans this week to “collaborate on the development of a new technology standard for consumer 3D active glasses” - a development that might mean cheaper 3D glasses and ones that would work interchangeably with many of the 3D monitors coming to market.
Coincidentally, the announcement by Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and XPAND 3D, came out just days after NPD Group, the consumer research firm, said that its latest monthly tally of audience interest in 3D indicates a growing indifference to the technology. NPD found that viewers are now even less inclined to buy 3D equipment or watch 3D theatrical movies than in the company’s previous surveys.
The new TV-maker alliance, called the “Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative,” says it will focus on “critical issues” to “enable a better consumer experience across active 3D products.” In doing so, they may try to overcome the growing ennui about 3D TV that NPD identified. The alliance’s technology is intended to work with Bluetooth-enabled RF and IR 3D active glasses for TV sets, personal computers, projectors and 3D theaters. The first licenses for the new glasses will be issued next month, and the first “universal glasses” with the IR/RF protocols will be available next year.
TV makers have been negotiating a single standard for 3D viewing for at least two years. Ironically, in its announcement, the alliance uses NPD Group data about viewer preference for active 3D viewing compared to polarized and other (cheaper) 3D viewing technologies being offered by manufacturers. A Samsung executive cited an NPD study that identified the active 3D format as having a 96% share of the U.S. 3D TV market in the first half of this year.
A half-dozen other Japanese and Chinese video display makers are also supporting the protocols developed by the 3D Glasses alliance.
Meanwhile, NPD’s newest study found that 3D glasses remain the major barrier to purchasing 3D equipment, an ever greater hurdle than the price of 3D sets. Some 42% of consumers, up significantly from the previous poll, told NPD that price itself is still a major barrier to buying 3D equipment. NPD’s study indicated that 3D videogames, especially handheld no-glasses games, are the one sector where audiences are willing to buy into 3D products.
NPD’s Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis, indicated in his report that “lighter and less-expensive active-shutter glasses” are one of the factors that could drive 3D TV sales in the future. Hence, the new set-makers’ initiative could help attract new 3D buyers when the products arrive in stores next year.
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com