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3D glasses: Big sales opportunity or big hassle?

Samsung is selling an accessory for an accessory with its "top hat" charger for 3D glasses. But does it really address a consumer need?

3D glasses are a double-edged sword for TV manufacturers. According to NPD's 3D 360° Monitor, an aversion to wearing glasses is the second most popular reason consumers give for not wanting to purchase a 3D TV. But for those who do buy 3D TVs, glasses represent one of the best accessory sale opportunities TV manufacturers have had since the flat-panel mount. Ring up a family pack of four glasses and you can easily reach the price of what some manufacturers charge for a flat-panel 2D television by itself.

SSG-3700CR glasses

Indeed, rather than treat glasses as a throwaway, Samsung recently revamped its 3D glasses, cramming an impressive amount of technology into a wearable product 25 percent lighter than its predecessor.

The electronics giant has added a circular frame that now easily grasps around various head sizes, enables a brighter 3D picture, accommodates prescriptions, switches to Bluetooth, and adds a charging gauge, all while keeping the price to about $100 per pair.

But what if there were a way to sell an accessory to go with those accessories? Samsung is taking a crack at just that, introducing a product at CES and showing it once again at the IFA Global Press Conference in Alicante, Spain.

It's a $200 black "top hat" charger--so nicknamed for its cylindrical shape centered atop a base plate about a third of the way from its bottom--that enables owners to inductively charge up to four pairs of Samsung's new, lighter-weight 3D glasses. The high-tech spectacles surround the glossy cylinder, one atop the next, in a spiraling statue of tolerated technology.

Related links
• What turns people off from buying 3D TV
• Samsung 3D TVs to include two pairs of glasses, additional pairs drop to $50 each

In function if not in design, the accessory clearly takes a cue from charging stations for video game controllers by companies such as Nyko and Energizer--a genuine aid to the avid button masher. But does it really address a consumer need?

According to NPD's 3D 360° Monitor, the need to recharge glasses was not one of the top obstacles among those calling glasses a somewhat or serious drawback. Indeed, the 3D home video industry would be lucky to have the "problem" of being overrun with so much content that glasses would always need to be at the ready, much less the 70 hours of viewing the glasses can last before being recharged.

The charger also draws attention to the active-shutter glasses needing to be recharged just as we are starting to see passive-glasses systems come to market that never need to be charged. While it may help eliminate the frustration that could result from finding a dead battery, consumers ultimately want a 3D experience that doesn't require glasses, offers an excellent viewing angle, and is supported by great movies of many genres, not just a staple of animated kids' fare.

That would be quite the hat trick.