3D: The Portable Version

It’s no surprise that besides 3D theatrical, it is large-screen TV that’s getting the big promotion budgets and major media/analyst attention. But it may be that mobile 3D screens will significantly outnumber big TVs in the relatively near future.

NEC Corp. has announced it will introduce PCs capable of displaying 3D images, perhaps as early as this autumn. Industry sources say the 3D LCD panels will probably use the micro-polarizer approach, which permits the use of lightweight and inexpensive passive glasses. The sources also say the PCs will incorporate 2D-to-3D conversion.

Chimei Innolux (CMI), Samsung Electronics and LG Display (LGD) are all interested in supplying 3D panels for Asustek’s 17-inch 3D notebook, which is supposed to launch in the third quarter of 2010. Asustek will choose the supplier that produces displays with the best images, industry sources say. CMI is now the largest supplier of 3D panels for desktop monitors, but LGD and Samsung have both started mass production of 3D monitor panels, reported Digitimes Research. CMI and Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) are the major suppliers of 3D notebook panels. CMI started mass-producing 22-inch 3D panels for gaming last year.

AU Optronics started shipping panels for 3D digital photo frames for Fujifilm in H2'09, and plans to launch display panels for mobile phones and computers. These panels may or may not be autostereoscopic (that is, without glasses).

CPT started shipping panels compatible with shutter glasses for a 3D laptop introduced by Asustek last year. CPT believes 3D technology will be an ongoing market trend, but that’s not the only attraction. "By adding 3D functions, we can add several percentage points to our margins compared to those for ordinary 2D panels," a senior company official said.

Meanwhile, Huawei - which provides telecommunications network solutions for wireless operators - successfully demonstrated next-generation LTE services with the mobile operator for Portugal Telecom. The demo highlighted various mobile broadband services, including high-def 3D television and mobile gaming.

Micro-polarizer 3D with passive glasses seems workable for some notebook PC applications, but users have to be prepared for a about a 60% reduction in screen luminance in 3D mode. That’s actually better than active shutter glasses which can reduce the 2D luminance by 80-85%. However, designers can pump up the backlight luminance in 3D mode (by pulsing it in synchrony with the shutter glasses or overall for passive glasses). Of course, this can impact operational time for laptops, and products may lose an Energy Star rating (there is no criteria for 3D laptops and monitors right now).

With one relatively small-screen exception, autostereoscopic 3D has not been suitable for long-term and detail-oriented viewing, but new versions may be suitable for cell-phone-sized displays.

We’re just beginning a very interesting period in which various flavors of 3D will be tried in a variety of sizes, on a variety of platforms, and for a variety of applications. Many of them will not be successful over the long - or even short - term. But some will be successful, and we can look forward to significant improvements in 3D technologies as time goes on.

By Ken Werner, DisplayDaily