Spectroniq Moves 3D TV Closer to the Goal

"As a 3D enthusiast, the goal I refer to here is to have a TV with useable 3D capability in everyone’s home. Let’s start this discussion with a few words on the current lay of the land.

Both Samsung and Mitsubishi offer DLP based rear projection HDTV products that are 3D enabled. These sets require the use of active glasses and produce 3D imagery that looks just great. About 500,000 3D enabled TVs of this type have already been sold.

At the Electronic Imaging, Stereoscopic Display and Applications Conference held earlier this week in San Jose, I had a chance to solicit opinions from many well informed people regarding the effects of these TVs on the 3D marketplace. I repeatedly heard the following: big screen TV retailers are indeed showing these 3D enabled TV models but they are not set up to demonstrate the 3D capability. When asked about the 3D capabilities of the sets, sales persons at these retailers generally knew the capability existed but could provide little additional, let alone meaningful information. A typical response was to be directed to the web site of the appropriate company. The general consensus was that very few owners of the 3D enabled TV sets are actually using the 3D feature.

One other fact before drawing a conclusion: rear projection TVs represent only a small and diminishing portion of TVs sold. People want and are buying flat panel TVs.

Add all this up and the bottom line is that these 3D enabled RPTVs are not leading the way to wide scale adoption of 3D technology in the home. Rather, the current reality is that these 3D enabled RPTVs actually represent a relatively small number of regular 2D TVs.

There are no surprises in answer to the question: why is this the state of affairs? The first reason is general: to penetrate widely, a 3D TV needs to be a flat panel display. The second reason is the usual "lack of available 3D media". Beyond this is the fact that these TVs are not set up such that they can just be turned on and immediately display in 3D - from any source. Rather, proper hardware and software are need and these must be set up properly.

With these comments as background, there was a recent announcement of a new product. It has been designed with features that represent progress of the type needed to address some of these issues.

It is the model IQ3D-A46 by Spectroniq. This is a 46-inch 1080P 2D/3D HDTV. The specifications of this HDTV in normal 2D mode are comparable to other LCD HDTVs. The specifications are, however, not the point of this article and will not be further discussed. Rather, the points of interest are the 3D related technologies included in the TV.

To start with, the 3D display is based on circularly polarizing, micro-polarizer technology licensed from Arisawa. Viewers are required to wear passive glasses.

The suite of electronic technology utilized in the Spectroniq 3D TV was developed by Kerner Optical Research and Development. Most significantly, the TV has built in 2D to 3D conversion technology. This software was developed by Sensio Technologies. As described by Brad Nelson, the CTO at Kerner, this provides the capability to watch 3D TV from all common inputs including broadcast, cable, DVDs and PC based computer games. Actually, since the quality of converted 3D is somewhat dependent on subject matter, Nelson referred to this capability as 2½D TV. None-the-less, for the first time, a consumer can turn on a TV set and see 3D imagery deriving from essentially any video source. In our opinion, this is a big deal!

In addition, there is (currently) a short list of video titles on the Sensio web site that have been prepared for 3D viewing. These DVDs can be played on a standard DVD player and produce stereoscopic 3D on the Spectroniq TV. In common with DLP RPTVs, it is also possible to obtain software from third parties that enable a wide range of PC based video games to display in stereoscopic 3D.

The Spectroniq 3D model IQ3D-A46 is expected to be available starting summer, 2008. The pricing was not yet available but I was told that it would be comparable to a high end Sony LCD HDTV of comparable size. I checked this out on line and found prices all over the map but the range was around $2,500 ± $750.

Among several things that 3D technology needs to accomplish to penetrate widely into the home, being a "no-brainer" (turn it on and it shows 3D) is one of them. So...having taken a step in that direction, hats off to Spectroniq and the model IQ3D-A46."

By Art Berman, DisplayDaily