3-D TV is Coming Soon to your Living Room

With the price of high-definition TVs sliding, display manufacturers are looking to 3-D in the home to drive the next big video experience. Heavyweights Sony and Panasonic have announced plans to release 3-D television sets next year, while other major players such as Samsung and Mitsubishi have recently released 3-D-ready TVs. LG and Philips are also preparing for a 3-D future. Add to that list of titans a small Los Gatos startup called High Definition Integration (HDI), which hopes it can help shape this emerging market.

HDI came out of stealth mode earlier this month to show off its 3-D laser projection technology, which it says provides a better quality image using simple polarized glasses. The company, which has been self-funded, is hoping to license its technology or build its own front-projection systems and flat-panel displays. HDI says its technology consumes less power and costs less than comparable systems.

"With our technology, we hope to raise the bar of what's available now," said Chris Stuart, director of technology at HDI. "We're trying to give the quality of IMAX in the home."

Sony, Panasonic and others are pushing a standard of delivery that utilizes active shutter glasses. The powered lenses block each eye alternately with the display to create two images. The industry is hoping to quickly rally around new standards for 3-D delivery, preventing a potential format war that could frustrate adoption. The Blu-ray Disc Association is expected to finalize a standard in the coming year that will help usher in a new wave of Blu-ray players and TVs.

It's against that backdrop that HDI is trying to gain some attention. HDI combines lasers with a propriety optical engine that can project images to both eyes at 180 hertz. After separating the picture into three colors, the image reaches each eye at 360 frame refreshes per second, about six times that of a competing 3-D television. That in turn smooths out the image and reduces flickering and some of the nausea-inducing effects of previous generations of 3-D.

Using lasers is more efficient, which cuts down on energy consumption, said HDI. An HDI projection system can power a 100-inch image for less than 200 watts while a comparable plasma display consumes more than 1,000 watts. And with HDI's technology, users only need to wear cheap polarized glasses that separate the image for each eye as opposed to shutter glasses, which can cost $100 or more.

"We're really trying to create a system that's comfortable for the user," said HDI Chief Technology Officer Edmund Sandberg.

He said the company can work with whatever standard is approved but is concentrating on larger screens, 70 inches or more, which produce a more immersive effect. With a front or rear projection system, HDI can produce a 100-inch image for about $10,000 to $15,000, far less than a comparable plasma TV, which can sell for several times that.

Sandberg said the company is working on projection sets now but can fit the technology into enclosed displays. HDI expects to have its technology ready for production in the next 18 months.

By Ryan Kim, San Francisco Chronicle