The sales of 3D TVs haven’t exactly set the world on fire despite the considerable marketing push by manufacturers. The scarcity of 3D content is one of the major reasons as is the fact that many consumers balk at the thought of wearing (and buying) the glasses required to produce the 3D effect. Various companies are working away on glasses-free 3D but Toshiba is the first to release a 3D TV that works without having to don dedicated eyewear – however there are a few limitations.

Due to the technology used to produce the 3D effect in its new “glasses-less 3D REGZA GL1” series, screen sizes are limited to “personal use” 12-inch and 20-inch sets. The small screen sizes are due to the fact that the Toshiba TVs use a perpindicular lenticular sheet to display 3D images, similar to the method used by Nintendo in its 3DS. The lenticular sheet is placed over the LED backlit LCD panels to create nine parallax images that produce the 3D effect.

Toshiba says it has customized the layout of the red, green and blue pixels specifically for 3D imaging with image data from each pixel replicated nine times and the direction in which they are transmitted controlled by the lenticular sheet. While Nintendo’s 3DS produces a relatively small 3D “sweet spot,” meaning the 3D effect is lost and images appear blurry for viewers outside the ideal viewing angle, Toshiba says its TVs are capable of, “smooth, natural 3D images that can be viewed from multiple angles.” How true this is remains to be seen but we’re definitely eager to check it out.

The company hasn’t specified exactly how wide the 3D viewing angle for its 3D sets is but recommends a viewing distance of 65cm (25.6-in) for the 12-inch 12GL1 and 90cm (35.4-in) for the 20-inch 20GL1.

The 20GL1 is able to transmit the final 3D image at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels because the panel has approximately four times the pixels of a Full HD panel – approximately 829 million pixels. This allows the TV to combine and display the nine parallax images carrying information from the nine images created in real time from a single frame in HD. The same approach is used for the 12GL1 but with approximately 147 million pixels to produce a final 3D image of 466 x 350 pixel resolution.

Toshiba will release both the 20GL1 and 12GL1 in Japan from the end of December 2010. As well as the smaller glasses-less “personal use” 3D TVs, the company says it will also continue to release larger screen 3D REGZA models that use glasses.

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