With lots of industry players working on 3-D TV, and the supporting HDMI 1.4 cable format on its way, 3-D television is guaranteed to be pushed on consumers during this holiday shopping season and the next. Panasonic certainly plans to promote the technology, and has just unwrapped a prototype 50-inch plasma unit that displays 3-D.
The TV works using stereo imagery—alternating images get sent to each eye and the viewer's brain reconstructs the image in three-dimensions—and that means it requires you to wear special goggles. These are the increasingly-classic shutter type that briefly blank the opposite eye in reaction to a signal from the set. There's an alternative system, relying on polarizing filter goggles over each eye to select which image the eyes see, and though this has the advantage of not requiring batteries it does result in a drop in image brightness for the user.
Despite all this complexity, the prototype 50-incher can manage full 1,920 by 1,080 pixel HD resolution, but that required some serious innovation on Panasonic's behalf. The plasma pixel phosphors are specially short-lived, to prevent image latency problems polluting the alternate eye's pictures, and the driving chips had to be tweaked to deliver the signals to the pixels swiftly so that the picture remains sufficiently bright.
For now, it's in prototype only format—and due for a more public unveiling next week at the Ceatec consumer electronics show in Japan next week. But since Panasonic's promised to deliver a consumer-ready version next year, the technology will probably play a big role in the real products, once a 3-D-compatible Blu-ray 3-D movie format has been worked out with industry partners like Sony. And if you're wondering why Panasonic's spent all the effort working on a 3-D plasma TV when the technology is aging and LCD and OLED systems are clearly the future, then remember that the tech is still selling pretty well—in fact sales have had a boost in the current economic climate. There's still life in the old dog yet, especially if it gets a three-dimensional injection.