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Posted at 6:34 PM ET, 01/ 8/2011

Glassless 3-D looks for a spot in the living room

By Rob Pegoraro

LAS VEGAS--Interest in a 3-D television seems a lot higher inside the convention center here than in stores elsewhere, and one reason (along with a lack of 3D content and high prices) is the need to don expensive "active shutter" glasses to see a 3-D effect.

At this year's show, a few manufacturers are demonstrating "glassless" screens that do away with that requirement but have other issues.

toshiba_glassless_3d_demo.jpg

Toshiba, which demonstrated a glassless system in October, has a large section of its exhibit devoted to this technology. The photo shows the principal issue with glassless 3-D, sometimes also called "autostereoscopic": Those strips of tape on the floor mark the viewing angles at which you can see that extra dimension.

One set had three of these spots marked out and another two, although Toshiba plans to offer more in production hardware. From those positions, the extra depth looked real but also a little flatter and more subtle than in what you might call "glassed" or "glassful" 3-D. A step to the left or right caused the image to double. Toshiba says they can accept current 3D sources, such as Blu-ray discs and 3-D cable and satellite channels.

But they're not cheap. To generate that 3-D effect without the help of glasses, Toshiba has to use a "4K" screen, with four times the resolution of plain old HD, to generate separate images for people's left and right eyes in those designated spots. (Don't ask me exactly how that works, but I can assure you that it does.) Sales trainer Bruce Walker said these sets, expected to ship by March 2012, would be "positioned at the top of our line."

Toshiba also showed me a laptop with a glassless 3-D screen, in this case built on two high-definition display panels layered atop each other. It uses its webcam to track the viewer's eyes, adjusting the image so that it stays aligned--except that this prototype device sometimes flickered briefly and exhibited double-vision glitches when I moved from side to side.

sony_3d_camcorder_ces.jpg

Sony aims to avoid those viewing-angle issues by confining glassless viewing to smaller screens, such as those on the video cameras it introduced at its press conference Wednesday evening.

One, a high-end Handycam due in April for $1,599 (pictured above), generated a 3-D effect on its built-in screen when subjects were at least about three feet away. Closer subjects caused the camera to suffer double vision. I had a harder time seeing an extra dimension on the small, grainy screen of a second, far cheaper model, the $250 Bloggie model also due in April.

Would an end to 3-D glasses make 3-D TV more appealing to you, or are you still content to save this for the occasional splurge at a movie theater? Let me know in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  | January 8, 2011; 6:34 PM ET
Categories:  CES 2011, TV, Video  
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