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Sony 3D TVs to be launched in Japan in June

9 March 10 16:42 GMT

Sony plans to launch new 3D television sets in Japan from 10 June.

A 46-inch 3D screen will cost around 350,000 yen ($3,898; £2,608), 52% more expensive than a regular Sony flatscreen television.

Sony hopes to "liberate 3D from the confines of movie theatres," says senior vice-president Yoshihisa Ishida.

The success of 3D films like Avatar, which won three Oscars on Sunday, has boosted hopes that 3D television could take off.

Widespread launches

Panasonic will begin selling 3D televisions in the US from Wednesday, in co-operation with electronics store Best Buy.

Samsung and LG are already selling 3D televisions and expect to launch their products in the UK and Europe over the next couple of months.

Included with the Sony television will be two pairs of special glasses and a camera sensor that will adjust sound and picture quality depending on where you sit.

The glasses cost around 12,000 yen each time you need an extra set.

They operate on an "active shutter principle" and present slightly different images to each eye, which Sony claims will provide realistic depth and crisp pictures.

ESPN, the sports network owned by Walt Disney, plans to launch a 3D sports channel this summer.

Early adopters might also be motivated by playing computer games - many of which are inherently three dimensional.

'Barriers to growth'

But in a downturn will consumers pay for fancy features like 3D?

"I'm not very optimistic about 3D TV as it is today, I see more negatives than positives," says Fernando Elizalde, from research firm Gartner.

"The biggest barriers to growth in 3D TV are the lack of content, the inconvenience of wearing glasses and that millions of consumers have only just upgraded to high-definition sets."

"Sony has one advantage: it has arms that make TV sets, produce content and make filming equipment."

Betting big

Sony has ambitious growth forecasts for 3D set sales.

It wants to sell 25 million liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions in the financial year April 2010 to March 2011, and hopes 10% of these will be 3D.

They will be hoping for a rush of orders before Japan's analogue TV signal is turned off in July 2011.

Sony is betting big on 3D. Its president, Sir Howard Stringer, calls it "the next great consumer experience".

The firm has implemented a programme of restructuring, cutting costs, reducing the number of manufacturing sites from 57 in December 2008 to 45 by May 2010.

Nevertheless in February, Sony said it expected to make a net loss of 70bn yen in the financial year ending March 2010. In the previous financial year it made a loss of of 98.9bn yen.

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