Those 3D glasses in cinemas were never very popular, but that doesn’t seem to bother Australians—at least not the 137,000 who bought 3D TV sets last year, according to figures from GfK Retail and Technology, a tech market intelligence firm.

It’s only 4.4 percent of all TV sales from March 2010 to February 2011, during which some 3 million non-3D TV sets were sold. The spending on 3D adds up to A$361 million, while regular flat-screens raked in A$2.4 billion.

So the market penetration isn’t too impressive, but things are still looking bright for 3D. GfK’s data shows that market sales more than tripled from September 2010 to February 2011, excluding sets sold online and in grocery outlets.

Publicity may have helped 3D along in the last six months, with films across various genres having adopted the technology. At the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show last January, leading manufacturers Samsung, Sony, LG, and Mitsubushi put 3D at the center of their home cinema displays.

The technology has also crossed over to other forms of media. The Nintendo 3DS, released just this year, wows gamers by throwing up interactive 3D images. In a few months, LG will be releasing 3D-compatible tablet PCs and camera phones. And Hewlett-Packard is working on a way to stream live 3D for cheap (current post-production costs are still staggeringly steep)—they offered a quick peek during the CES show.

The latter isn’t designed for home cinemas, though. HP is planning to offer it to event promoters, who could then host live events projected onto large screens in theaters, pubs, and other entertainment venues.

Accompanying the rise of 3D TV is the continued popularity of 3D-capable Blu-Ray players, laptops and notebooks, and camcorders. Australia’s main suppliers—Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and LG—are hot on each other’s heels for the next step: meshing 3D with high-speed Internet connectivity.

Samsung, which topped the 3D market in the U.S. in 2010, has already announced a new 3D system with internet browsing capability, including apps for Twitter, Skype, and Facebook. There’s even an online store exclusively for HD TV apps.

There’s also heavy competition between two types of 3D glasses, the cheap, film-patterned retarder ones used in cinemas and the active-shutter ones which cost considerably more. One thing’s for sure: new 3D TV owners will have to put up with the glasses for a while, as glasses-free technology is still a long way away.

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