Sony to begin worldwide 3D TV launch in June

The PlayStation 3D upgrade is due at about the same time

Sony will begin selling 3D TVs in Japan on June 10 and worldwide at about the same time, it said Tuesday. A firmware upgrade to its PlayStation 3 console that adds 3D support and other 3D-compatible home electronics products will also be available to coincide with the television launch.

Sony's first two sets, which are 40- and 46-inch models, will come bundled with two pairs of 3D glasses and will cost ¥290,000 (US$3,215) and ¥350,000 respectively. In July it will launch six further sets: 52- and 60-inch models that come with 3D glasses and four "3D-ready" models that have 3D circuitry inside the set but require the purchase of glasses and an infrared transmitter.

The cheapest of the sets, a 40-inch model that requires the additional glasses and transmitter, will carry an estimated retail price of ¥220,000. The glasses will cost ¥12,000 per pair and the transmitter, which sends out a signal to synchronize electronic shutters in the glasses, will cost ¥5,000. All prices are Sony estimates and products can typically be found online for less.

Included in each set will be a real-time 2D-to-3D convertor, which can take a conventional 2D television image and simulate a 3D image from it. The technology was demonstrated on Tuesday with footage of figure skating, where the skater was in focus and some distance from spectators in the background, and appeared to work well. Sony didn't offer demonstrations on any other footage.

Tuesday's announcement fills out Sony's 3D launch plans, which began in September last year when it became the first major consumer electronics maker to disclose plans to launch 3D televisions in 2010. It has subsequently been followed by other big names including Panasonic, Samsung and LG.

Two of those companies will manage to beat Sony to market with 3D sets. On Wednesday Panasonic plans to start selling 3D televisions through Best Buy stores in the U.S. and some retailers are already advertising availability of the first 3D TV from Samsung.

Sony has high hopes for 3D and expects sales of 3D-compatible sets to be about 2.5 million this year. That represents a 10 percent slice of its total TV sales target.

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