Toshiba, Nintendo Bank on 3D

Toshiba just announced that it will release two new glasses-free 3D TVs in Japan this December, a 12-inch and a 20-inch. The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming device details. PCWorld has more on Toshiba’s new 3D TVs:

Toshiba’s new TVs have a thin sheet of small lenses in front of the display. Behind this lens screen is a custom-developed LCD (liquid crystal display) panel. Each screen has 8.29 million pixels — four times the number of pixels in a conventional “full HD” television — organized into groups of nine pixels of each color. The nine lenses split light from each bank of pixels and send it to nine points in front of the TV

If the viewer sits in one of these sweet spots they get the 3D illusion. The nine spots should enable several family members to watch a 3D image at the same time.

(The TVs will) cost around ¥120,000 (US$1,430) and ¥240,000 respectively. The company is waiting on larger screens before it launches the TVs outside of Japan, said Masaaki Oosumi, president of Toshiba’s digital media network unit, at a news conference. Markets such as the U.S. demand televisions with screen sizes starting at about 40 inches, making these first models a little small.

CNN covers Nintendo’s 3DS handheld gaming device, which will debut in next February in Japan for about $300, and will arrive in the US next March:

Unlike 3-D games for the PlayStation 3 or those utilizing NVIDIA’s 3-D Vision technology, which adds three-dimensional special effects to PC titles, software for the Nintendo 3DS doesn’t require the use of cumbersome stereoscopic glasses.

Fans also don’t have to pay for expensive hardware upgrades such as a 3-D TV or custom graphics cards. Both are major hurdles that have thus far kept players from hopping on the 3-D bandwagon en masse, and game makers from following in large numbers.

The device is better suited to the briefer, more mobile gaming experiences that define current gaming trends and appears better poised to satisfy both casual and hardcore video game fans than its competitors.

Additional support for 3-D TV shows and films should further buoy the Nintendo 3DS’ popularity as a portable entertainment device. The gadget also offers the benefit of on-demand game updates and downloads via Wi-Fi connection.

Screen Digest says that 28% of homes will have 3D TVs within the next four years, according to this Screenrant post. That estimate seems high at today’s costs, but if manufacturers can improve technology while driving prices down, that could be a viable estimate.

Screenrant also makes the point that studios are hesitant to release 3D Blu-rays or DVDs. They want to wait until more people have 3D home entertainment systems, which in turn would make margins more secure.

It also looks like mobile developers are jumping on the 3D bandwagon, with new silicon and software platforms that enable mobile viewers to see content in 3D on their phones and tablets.

I had my doubts about 3D until reading about Toshiba and Nintendo’s glasses-free versions. As long as the companies with an interest in this technology can persuade consumers that it’s the next big thing, they’ll be able successfully upcharge for it and, if all goes well, even standardize it. Consumer reception will be 3D’s X-factor for the next year or so.

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