Passive 3D glasses from LG. Anyone with a sense of fashion would go for this. No need to recharge, cheap and probably works in a theater

Do you remember how last year you’ve been told that active-shutter glasses* where fundamentally the best thing in the world and that passive-glasses were terrible? Well, this year, a number of companies have flipped and now say that passive glasses are the new hot thing. (*active shutter glasses are battery-operated, and use an infra-red signal from your TV to alternatively block images from going to your left or right eye)

We’ve known all along that active glasses were expensive, bulky, ugly and incompatible among brands, but the magnitude of the flip was impressive at CES. While no-one would openly say this, the economics of 3D based on active glasses simply doesn’t work: early adopters might not mind, but we won’t see any mass adoption of a technology that requires spending $150 per pair of glasses – which probably does not work with another 3D system, even one using the same basic technology. Passive glasses are cheap ($10?) and they have much better odds of working with another passive 3D system. Of course, 3D based on passive technology also has some drawbacks like potential loss of resolution and brightness, but it’s not that bad, and those issues can be worked around, and the savings easily justify it (active 3D has also plenty of problems). LG in particular is pushing real hard to prove that passive glasses are the way of the (intermediate) future.

Really, the answer to all of this is glasses-less systems (or those futuristic contact lenses) – but it will take some time. Toshiba has created a wide panic among TV makers with its Regza GL1 at CEATEC 2010. At CES, others were showing glasses-less models prototypes, with more or less success.

You’ve got to love glasses-less 3D TVs, but for manufacturers, isn’t it also the best way to tell customers: “wait, glasses-less 3D is just around the corner”? This is a tough choice for them: don’t say anything and you look technologically backwards, say something and you might stall your sales. Oh well, tough or not, 2010 has been a record year for companies like Samsung, so we think that they’ll be OK.

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