3D Glasses Go Universal

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Xpand 3D

Xpand 3D's universal 3D glasses.

If 3D TV isn’t as popular as TV manufacturers presumably hope it might be, it’s in part because of the hassle of dealing with 3D glasses. And part of the hassle has been their proprietary nature: Major TV makers have sold specs that worked only with their own sets, which meant that you had to buy ones from your set’s manufacturer, and couldn’t switch TV brands without buying new glasses.

Last August, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and glasses maker Xpand 3D announced that they were working together to develop a standard for 3D glasses. It’s called Full HD 3D Glasses. And this week at Xpand 3D’s booth at CES in Las Vegas, I tried some of the first glasses that support it.

The good news is that there’s nothing much to report: I was able to watch Ice Age 3 in 3D through several different brands of glasses, and it looked exactly the same in all cases. The glasses also work with some 3D PCs and with 3D movies shown in theaters that use active 3D. (But passive 3D–the type that involves glasses with no embedded electronics–is what’s pervasive in U.S. movie theaters.)

These new glasses aren’t quite universal, because some TV makers are using infrared to sync the spectacles with the 3D picture, and others use Bluetooth. Makers of 3D glasses can choose to support infrared, Bluetooth or both; the compatible technologies will be indicated on packaging.

Besides cofounders Panasonic, Samsung and Sony, other major TV makers have expressed support for the Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative, including Toshiba, Philips and Sharp. So the chances seem good that these standard glasses will, in fact, become standard. (LG isn’t on board, but it’s focusing on passive 3D; the Full HD 3D standard only applies to active 3D.)

Full HD 3D glasses are beginning to hit store shelves. The first HDTVs that they’ll work with are supposed to show up in March.