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January 05, 2011

At CES Toshiba Debuts Glasses-free 3D TVs for the Rest of the World

They're sexy, they're cool, and when they were first introduced in the fall, the rest of the world outside of Japan could only lust after them from afar. But now, Toshiba has announced that it will begin selling its large-screen versions of its glasses-free 3D television sets to the rest of the world in fiscal 2011, said company executives yesterday during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

To accompany this news, Toshiba (News - Alert) also announced an ambitious target for a one-third increase in its TV unit sales for the financial year starting in April, to 20 million, reported Reuters. The company hopes to pick up market share in developing countries.

Toshiba, whose products range from household appliances to nuclear power stations, has already launched 12-inch and 20-inch versions of its glasses-free 3D TV in Japan. The Tokyo-based company calls the units “the world's first high-definition liquid crystal display 3D televisions” that do not require the use of special 3D glasses to experience the three-dimensional effect. The sets were first introduced back in October in Japan.

Electronics and entertainment companies around the world are banking on 3D to fuel a new boom in TV, movies and games. Most 3D televisions on the market today rely on special glasses to rapidly deliver separate images to each eye, which creates the three-dimensional effect to the viewer.

The need for special glasses is considered a major factor hindering sales of most 3D TVs – consumers just aren't hot about having to wear special glasses to watch television – so Toshiba's glasses-free sets are seen as overcoming that challenge. However, rival companies have said the viewing angle for glasses-free technology is too restrictive, as viewers need to sit what some say is uncomfortably close to the TV to get the 3D effect.

The company is showing off prototypes of 56-inch and 65-inch glasses-free 3D TVs at CES (News - Alert) and will probably launch two models outside of Japan: one over 40 inches and another over 50 inches, a Toshiba spokesman said.

“These will not only be for the Japanese market, but also America, Europe and China,” said the Toshiba spokesman. He gave no details on launch dates or prices for the new products.

Toshiba makes liquid-crystal display screens in-house for its small glasses-free 3D TV models, but the company said it would need to work with an external supplier for the larger screens.

In its existing glasses-free TVs for sale in Japan, there are two models available, a 12-inch and 20-inch set. Toshiba uses a “perpendicular lenticular sheet,” to achieve the 3D effect. This sheet, which consists of an array of small lenses that directs light from the display to nine points in front of the TV, requires the viewer to sit within “the optimal viewing zone” so the brain can integrate these points into a single 3D image.

The company also sells 3D-capable televisions for use with customary glasses, along the lines of those offered by rivals such as Sony Corp.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard

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