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Panasonic optimistic about 3D TV

Panasonic is hoping to capitalise on James Cameron's new 3D film Avatar by launching its own 3D technology for the home at CEATEC in Japan this week.

Panasonic is hoping to capitalise on James Cameron's new 3D film Avatar by launching its own 3D technology for the home at CEATEC in Japan this week.

Panasonic hopes that Avatar

The company has invested in the technology by producing concept TVs, Blu-ray players as well as a professional stereo video camera, and hopes this will make it synonymous with 3D.

"We want to establish ourselves as the 3D leader and so Panasonic is focussing its efforts in this area," Panasonic spokesperson Akira Kadota said.

Panasonic unveiled a 50-inch prototype plasma at this year's CEATEC and is aiming to have the television and associated Blu-ray player available in 2010.

In collaboration with director James Cameron, Panasonic featured a 3D version of the Avatar trailer and associated materials in its launch. The company hopes the availability of Blu-ray copies of Avatar next year will help sell the concept.

CNET Australia attended the 3D demonstration and thought the results looked impressive.

"We do believe it will be a success," Ken Morita, senior managing director of Panasonic, said yesterday. "We don't think it will be a failure. We don't think about that. But we cannot see into the future. It depends on the market and the software makers as well."

However, a recent report by reserach company Gartner stated that it didn't see 3D as a mainstream technology: "For the consumer home market, the 3D TV is likely to remain a niche product, not only because of the global recession, but also mainly because the technologies available are not ideal in terms of their ease of use, cost or practicality, let alone the range of available 3D content."

Versions of the technology have been around for more than 50 years, but Panasonic's version uses glasses with active shutters that flicker on and off at high speeds. Each eye is sent a slightly different image at full 1080p resolution at 60Hz a side, or 120Hz in total (NTSC).

Panasonic's 3D TV with glasses and Blu-ray player (Credit: Ty Pendlebury)

In order for it to work, the Panasonic's technology depends on three separate devices: a compatible Blu-ray player (or set-top box), a 3D television, and active glasses.

Masayuki Kozuka, Panasonic's general manager of storage devices, said the company would try to keep costs low and estimated that a 50-inch 3D TV would cost approximately ¥200,000 (AU$2500) and that a set of glasses for a family of four would cost around ¥20,000 (AU$250).

Current prototypes of the glasses use "coin" batteries and have an expected life of 100 hours, or about 50 movies, Kozuka said. The company would also consider rechargeable glasses, according to Kozuka.

However, Panasonic isn't the only company offering 3D solutions, with competitors Sony, Samsung and Sharp also offering their own versions. Most are based on the same active glasses principle, but Panasonic says its version is superior. The company is hoping its method will be recognised by the Blu-ray Forum and become the standard for all Blu-ray movies.

Sony, not to be outdone, announced its own professional 3D camera at CEATEC this week, which uses what could be a more economical single lens instead of two.

Panasonic's Kazuka said its 3D technology minimises "motion sickness" effects, but people should use 3D technology as they would a PC monitor, with regular breaks every two to three hours.

"3D is something people will think is only enjoyable in the theatres, but ticket sales only make up 20 per cent of the total so you need home cinema to get 3D penetration," he said.

While Panasonic is working with several cable companies on a broadcast version, according to Kazuka, it won't be broadcast until at least 2011.

3D technology was one of two main initiatives Panasonic highlighted at CEATEC 2009, with "Eco" products also being a major focus.

In the shorter time period, 3D TV is very important for now, but in the long term Eco is seen as the most important concern.

Ty Pendlebury travelled to Japan as a guest of Panasonic.