With glasses-free sets, will 3D take off?

— -- Technology companies are incorporating 3D technology into an ever-expanding array of devices, including camcorders, television sets and home cinemas. But the glasses still look nerdy and consumers have so far been reluctant to bring the technology into their homes.

Toshiba's new glasses-free TV could change that. But with competing technologies and pricing still high, will 3D products ever really take off? The world's tech giants certainly think so.

Sony's personal 3D viewer is undoubtedly the most futuristic-looking of the 3D products on display at the recent IFA technology fair in Berlin. Mounted on the viewer's head, it looks like it has come straight off the Star Trek set. It rests rather heavily on the nose and the device, aimed at gamers and film fans, comes with built-in surround-sound headphones.

3D TVs, made by Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Toshiba and others, come in different shapes and forms , with glasses to match. Active shutter-glass (SG) type sets compete with passive film patterned retarder (FPR) types.

In SG technology, glasses contain a liquid crystal layer which becomes dark when electricity is applied. They are controlled by a transmitter that sends a signal allowing the glasses to darken alternatively over the eyes, synchronized with the screen's refresh rate.

FPR technology allows only left and right images to be seen, showing a different image for each eye; both images are combined in the brain, generating a 3D effect and the technology does not use electricity.

Designer 3D glasses

Sony uses SG technology, which it says delivers clear and crisp images. It argues there is a clear difference in picture quality with products using FPR technology, used by LG among others.

For those who want to look cool watching 3D, a range of designer 3D glasses by the likes of Lacoste and Calvin Klein is available. Pricing is similar to that of a regular pair of designer glasses, but with a curved lens, the companies argue their glasses are better for 3D viewing than many of the other heavy-framed models.

Toshiba's no-glasses 3D TV was one of the hottest topics of discussion at the IFA fair. Toshiba's 3D televisions, launched in Europe at IFA , create the illusion of depth without the need to wear special glasses by sending images of different perspectives to the right and others to the left eye.

Two bendy gymnasts at the Panasonic stand provided a handy opportunity to test the company's full HD 3D camcorders. The 3D digital camera will shoot 2D photos and HD video, Panasonic said. With its 3D still and video capabilities, the camera will allow users to take 3D photos and 3D HD videos.

Technology companies argue that the relative scarcity of 3D content is delaying its adoption. As a result, they are incorporating technology which can convert 2D images into 3D format into their TV sets

LG demonstrated a 2D-to-3D game converter at the IFA fair. "Small and medium-sized game companies will be able to offer 3D versions of their existing 2D games without major investments in human resources, cost or time.

Meanwhile, smartphone users will reap the benefits of being able to convert their 2D games into 3D anytime, anywhere free of charge," LG said in a statement accompanying the release.

Laptops and tablets are increasingly geared towards 3D gaming as well, with Toshiba presenting a gaming notebook "to satisfy even the most demanding gamers."

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