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3D TVs on sale in two years

Research group says 3D tech is getting cheaper

A Taiwanese research group has developed 3D TV technology that can be used on LCD screens as big as 42in, and believes such TVs will be on sale within two years.

Engineers at Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) have already developed prototypes of Polarized 3D Displays in two LCD TV screen sizes, 32in and 42in. The technology is almost ready to be turned over to private companies for marketing and sales, said Tsai Chao-hsu, project manager of 3D display technology at ITRI.

After the technology is in private hands, much of the timing of getting 3D LCD TVs to market will depend on the company, but should still be within a year or two, Tsai said.

ITRI is a publicly funded research organisation in Taiwan. It helps develop new technologies and often works with companies to speed up product development. Once a self-developed technology is ready for the market, ITRI inks deals with private companies to take over the technology for marketing and sales.

The research group's 3D LCD TVs work by attaching a micro-retardation array on the front of the LCD panel of the TV, and it doesn't add significant cost to the production of the TV, said Tsai.

"The material cost for the extra components to make an LCD TV become a 3D LCD TV is very low. However, the price will depend on the market policy of the company. Over the long term, their price will be just a little higher than their 2D counterparts," said Tsai.

Any LCD panel can be used with the micro-retarder. Unfortunately for people who already own an LCD TV, the micro-retarder has to be built onto the screen during production and cannot be added to existing sets.

Users have to wear special polarised glasses for a clear 3D picture on the 3D LCD TV. A pair of prototype 3D LCD TVs the research group showed off worked well, but engineers said they're still perfecting the technology to increase colour saturation and make the picture clearer.

ITRI believes the TVs could be very popular for 3D gaming and for watching movies in 3D.

ITRI is already talking with a few companies about taking on sales and marketing of 3D TVs, said Steven Yang, a researcher in the 3D display department at ITRI, but he declined to provide further details, citing non-disclosure agreements.

The Taiwanese group is also using micro-retarders on a 3D digital photo frame that is 3D to the naked eye. No polarised glasses are needed.

But the product is a long way from being ready, and gave this reporter a headache from looking at it. ITRI engineers put the micro-retarder behind the LCD panel but in front of the backlight on the digital photo frame to create the 3D effect, said Yang.


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