XpandD hopes you don't miss the boat on Universal 3D glasses

CANNES -- One of the pleasures of covering the Cannes Film Festival is the occasional yacht soiree. It's even better when I can get a worthwhile consumer tidbit along with the champagne.

XpanD, which provides 3D for the festival, hosted a party to show off what it says is the first Universal 3D glasses They can be used used for any 3D-ready television, theater screen or PC monitor equipped with active shutter technology. At $125 the glasses will cost about $25 less than the manufacturer-specific competition, the company said.

XpanD hopes to release the glasses in the third or fourth quarter. Retailers, XpanD spokesman Jonathan Ross told WalletPop, will be able to stock just one brand of 3D wear, rather than all the models and parts that are compatible with each TV manufacturer and incompatible with the rest. Those savings can be passed on to the consumer as well. Currently, for example, when you buy a Panasonic TV, you have to buy Panasonic glasses. (One pair is usually complimentary when you buy a 3D telly, but you have Mrs. Couch Potato and the little couch potatoes to equip, too, right?)Customers will get fine resolution and image pop with the XpanD glasses, this WalletPopper can confirm after trying them out. They also look sporty and come in groovy colors. XpanD's model competes with the passive polarized filtering, in which images project through lenses that redirect the light into what appears to be a third visual dimension. Or something like that. The glasses for polarized filtering are far cheaper, which makes it easier to accommodate a crowd for the big game. And they require no power source. But active shutter makes it easier for manufacturers to modify their HDTVs into 3D.
Most 3D TVs now are being outfitted with active-shutter technology.

The XpanD glasses imperceptibly alternate covering one lens with liquid crystals so that each eye captures an image from a different perspective. That creates the depth of vision. "Our transformation happens in the glasses," Ross said. The battery charge lasts about 300 hours.

In the United States, XpanD's development is bigger news for 3D TV watchers because rival RealD, which deploys a polarized filter, has most of the domestic theater market. But XpanD does appear to have "Avatar" director James Cameron on its side. A photo of Cameron, wife Suzy Amis and producer Jon Landau wearing the glasses was posted near the entrance of the yacht. "He loves our system," said Ross, who pointed out that XpanD dominates the European theatrical market.

WalletPop guesses that XpanD is going as fast as its marketing and distribution will allow in getting the Universal model out there. The 3D market is in its infancy and several manufacturers are working with active-shutter technology.

This could be a make-or-break period. A slew of 3D blockbusters such as "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" are hitting the home 3D market, begging for a proper viewing. Meanwhile, recession-bit consumers are deciding whether to shell out the extra $300 to $500 for a 3D-enabled HDTV.

For those who bite, XpanD hopes consumers see things their way.
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