Everybody gripes about 3D glasses. Now some prominent consumer electronics makers are trying to do something about them.
Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and XpanD today announced the "Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative," saying that they will collaborate on a new standard for 3D active glasses that uses radio frequency and "multiple types of infrared system protocols."
Currently, 3D glasses from a given company are generally not compatible with other manufacturers' televisions. With this Full HD 3D Glasses initiative, the companies plan to bring glasses to the market that can be used on any new 3D television, regardless of the company that manufactured the set.
Calls for a 3D glasses standard have been growing louder over the last year. And XpandD, which manufactures 3D spectacles, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of a standard. Last year, its chief strategy officer, Ami Dror, said in an interview with CNET that the lack of a standard is making watching 3D content with friends and family more trouble than it's worth.
"If you're watching the Super Bowl at a party, would you expect the guy hosting to go buy 15 pairs of glasses?" Dror asked. "No, of course not."
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Dror also saw the lack of a standard as a problem for retailers. He pointed out that companies like Best Buy shouldn't be expected to "carry 15 types of 3D glasses. That doesn't make sense."
To get the ball rolling, XpandD announced in March that it had signed a deal with Panasonic to come up with a standard for infrared systems. This latest expanded agreement brings more protocols and company technologies into the fold.
Although a standard is welcome, active 3D glasses have been criticized for their design and cost. In some cases, consumers have been paying more than $100 to get their hands on a single, bulky pair of active 3D glasses. Of late, however, some companies have been selling their glasses for less. Samsung's 3D glasses, for example, retail for $50.
Even though they can be expensive, active glasses are dominant in the marketplace. As Samsung points out, active 3D technology had 96 percent share in the U.S. during the first half of this year, easily besting passive technology. Glasses-less 3D TVs have also started to crop up, but those products are still years away from being readily available at the right price point and size for consumers.
That said, a world where 3D content is viewable without glasses might be what consumers are really after. Last September, Nielsen announced the results of a study on 3D glasses that found that 57 percent of people won't buy 3D TVs because of glasses. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that they wouldn't want to wear glasses because they hamper their ability to multitask.
Samsung, Panasonic, and the rest hope to have their standard ready for licensing next month, and they expect the first universal glasses to be made available in 2012. When the glasses launch, the companies expects them to backward-compatible with 2011 models of 3D active TVs.