The retail performance of 3D hardware for the home has been developing at a healthy pace, bolstered by 3DTV prices falling by close to 40% in some cases, and year one adoption of 3DTV is running at a far quicker rate in most territories than it did for high definition, according to a new industry report from Futuresource Consulting.
Futuresource expects global sales of 3DTVs to exceed four million this year. Across Western Europe alone, 1.2 million 3DTVs will be sold, rising to more than three million in 2011. In the US, more than five million 3DTVs will be sold next year.
“3DTV will continue to provide ‘premium brand’ CE manufacturers with a way to differentiate themselves from the competition and add value for consumers,” says Bill Foster, Senior Technology Consultant at Futuresource Consulting. “For systems that use active glasses technology, manufacturers are now able to embed 3D chipsets at a relatively low cost, allowing them to increase their margins while still keeping 3D affordable. Passive glasses technology, as used in cinemas, is still more expensive to produce for the home and will remain costly for some time, as the TV requires a polarised screen. In addition, passive systems are unable to show 3D in full 1080p, as the picture on the screen is polarised, with half the image delivered to the left eye and half to the right.”
As the television market continues to be commoditised, with traditional factors like screen size, display thickness and the quality of image reaching their peak, 3D capability will increasingly be bundled with other features like connectivity, web services and energy efficiency to add a new dimension beyond the battle for price point.
“Toshiba’s announcement about its autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3DTVs, combined with a number of optimistic predictions across the industry, may be discouraging some consumers from investing in the current generation of 3DTV,” says Foster. “However, Futuresource research shows that autostereoscopic technologies are at least four years away from a large screen solution for the home, and it will likely be a few years beyond this before sets reach mass-market pricing.”
At a smaller screen size, auto-stereoscopic 3D devices are commercially viable as they are viewed close-up by a single person. The highest profile device to be announced so far is without doubt the Nintendo 3DS, due for launch in early 2011 and featuring a 3.53-inch display, but the developers of these small displays readily admit that scaling to larger sizes for a living room environment presents a significant technical challenge.