Toshiba to ship glasses-free 3D TV to U.S. in early 2012

David Katzmaier

Toshiba has confirmed to CNET that it plans to make a glasses-free 3D TV available to buyers in the U.S. sometime during the first quarter of 2012.

The set would be the first of its kind for the North American market, although Toshiba already has 55-inch glasses-free 3D TVs available for sale in Germany (the 55LZ2) and Japan (the 55X3). Both went on sale in December and retail for more than $10,000 in their home currencies.

A Toshiba representative told CNET that the U.S. version would be similar to those versions, but he couldn't provide additional details, nor could he list available screen sizes (other than "big") or model numbers yet. The Japanese and European 55-inchers utilize 4K (3,840x2,160-pixel) resolution screens, but the 3D mode is limited to an effective resolution of 1,280x720 pixels.

For the uninitiated, here's an excellent summary from CNET's Steven Shankland on how the European Toshiba 55LZ2 manages to ditch the glasses:

    3D works by showing separate views to the left and right eyes; the brain reconstructs the 3D world from the two images. Toshiba's TV uses numerous tiny lenses to direct two different views in slightly different directions so each eye sees something different. That's easier to do with a single viewer at a fixed distance to the screen, but harder with multiple viewers. Toshiba's 55LZ2 divides the overall viewing area into nine separate regions so people can use the 3D over a broad range of angles.

    It's not quite as easy as regular TV, though. Before watching, a button on the remote control launches face-tracking software on the TV to detect viewers' positions to best control the picture.

The company will demonstrate an improved prototype that is, according to the company rep, "much further along in development than the prototype we had at CES last year" at an event Sunday in Las Vegas, so I'll check it out then and let you know what I think. I've been told that there will still be some differences between the new prototype and the one that Toshiba plans to ship this year.