Sony targets sales of 2.5 million 3D sets this year

Electronics giant launches new TVs despite concern that public not ready
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The Independent Online

It may have missed out on the top gongs at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, but Sony is backing Avatar's record-breaking box office performance to help usher 3D viewing into the living room.

The electronics giant yesterday unveiled its 40in and 46in Bravia 3D television sets, saying they would launch in Japan on 10 June and around the world shortly after.

Panasonic had stolen some of its thunder on Tuesday by revealing it was to sell its own 3D sets in the US from today. With Samsung also set to launch in 3D, the battle for the next generation of sets is set to intensify.

Despite some concerns that the public is not ready for 3D television quite yet, Sony was bullish over its sales forecasts yesterday. Yoshihisa Ishida, the head of Sony's television arm, said he expects the company to sell 25 million LCD TVs in the next financial year to March, with 10 per cent of those being 3D. This would see sales of its sets increase by 67 per cent on this year's sales estimates. He said: "Fiscal 2010 is really a year when we think we can attack."

Analysts have cited problems including the lack of content, issues over wearing the glasses and the cost of the equipment. The Sony TVs vary in price, although the 46in screen will cost ¥350,000 (£2,600), about 50 per cent higher than a High Definition LCD set. The 40in set will cost ¥290,000.

The TVs will come with two pairs of the special 3D glasses, which will cost ¥12,000 to replace, and use the "active shuttering" system. Different to polarised 3D glasses, active shuttering glasses darken one lens alternately at incredibly quick speeds to line up the overlaid images on the screen and trick the brain into creating a 3D image.

Sony also revealed a "face detection" sensor to regulate the sound and picture to the viewer, and make sure they do not sit too close to the TV.

The move to 3D sets has happened relatively quickly. Sony became the first major producer to announce it was fully behind the technology last September. Sir Howard Stringer, the group's chief executive, said there would be a 3D set in every home by the end of 2010. By the CES industry trade event in Las Vegas in January, there was talk of little else.

Mr Ishida said Sony was not worried about its rivals beating it to the punch, because of the lack of existing 3D material. That could soon change. In the UK, Sky is heavily investing in 3D, especially on its sports output. It showed the first live 3D sports broadcast to the public when Manchester United played Arsenal in January, bringing it to pubs around the UK and Ireland. ESPN is to screen live football in 3D from the World Cup in South Africa and will carry 85 live events this year.

Sony also announced an upgrade to its PlayStation 3 gaming console that will allow players to experience 3D games, and the Blu-ray system will be upgraded as well. Sony also hopes to sell cameras used for 3D filming.

Avatar has broken all records for box office receipts, taking $2.6bn around the world. And although it won three Oscars, for best art direction, cinematography and visual effects, it lost out on the best director and best film awards to Katherine Bigelow and her film The Hurt Locker. Other 3D films include Alice in Wonderland, which took £10.5m in the UK on its opening weekend, and Stephen Spielberg's big-screen adaptation of Tintin.