When a new technology comes on the scene it often sparks a format war. It's logical that the big players will push their proprietary technology as the market standard so they can recoup some of the money they've spent on R & D. It happened with Beta and VHS, HD-DVD and Blu-ray and more recently with active-shutter glasses for 3D TVs. Now Panasonic has teamed up with XPAND, the company behind a line of Universal 3D glasses, to create a new "universal standard" for 3D active-shutter glasses called M-3DI. But although there are a few companies on board, a number of big players are yet to sign up.
The incompatibility between 3D glasses offered by different 3D TV manufacturers has meant that consumers, who are usually forced to shell out extra for additional pairs of glasses for their particular brand of 3D TV, haven't been able to take their glasses over to a friend or family member's place to watch 3D TV unless they have the same brand of TV – although sometimes there is a simple, albeit unfashionable, solution.
Designed to accelerate penetration of 3D technology amongst consumers, the new standard for 3D active-shutter glasses formulated by Panasonic and XPAND called M-3DI would offer compatibility among 3D TVs, computers, home projectors and cinema projectors. If widely adopted, this would mean a night out to the cinema would see moviegoers bringing along their own 3D glasses, which might be a plus for the operators who currently pay to have the glasses that are currently reused cleaned. Although, most cinemas currently use passive glasses, so switching to a new technology so soon after adopting another probably won't be welcomed.
Initially the M-3DI standard will be licensed using infrared communication technology to sync the shutters with the images for the respective eyes appearing onscreen, but the use of radio communications is being considered for the standard in the future. Licensing of the communication protocol between 3D active-shutter glasses and 3D-capable TVs, front projectors, computers and cinema systems (XPAND-compatible theaters) will begin in April, 2011.
So far Changhong Electric Co., Ltd., FUNAI Electric Co., Ltd., Hisense Electric Co., Ltd., Hitachi Consumer Electronics Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Seiko Epson Corporation, SIM2 Multimedia S.p.A. and ViewSonic Corporation have agreed to support the M-3DI standard, leaving many major players such as Samsung, Sony, LG, Toshiba and Sharp yet to voice their support.
Forcing consumers to buy a specific brand of glasses is common practice among manufacturers looking to squeeze some more cash out of those that have already shelled out a significant amount of money for the TV itself. The adoption of a standard should benefit consumers through cheaper glasses and compatibility across different branded TVs, might be a hard sell for manufacturers. It's a good theory ... we'll keep an eye on developments with interest.