If your memories of 3D displays involve B movies and cardboard glasses with red and blue lenses, it's time for another look. New 3D displays are arriving in many different forms, from enhancements to standard flat screens to true volumetric displays and holographic images.
While 3D displays remain far from the mainstream, the market is maturing. The government continues to drive much of their consumption and financial backing. Yet a broader market is emerging, including sales to the medical, industrial, and consumer segments. In fact, private-sector sales will rise 44.5% from 2003's 2 million total to 2.9 million in 2004, reaching 8.1 million in 2010 for an 18.5% compound annual growth rate.
According to iSuppli's "3D Displays" report, the market can be divided broadly into four types of technology:
- Flat types that use active-shutter or passive glasses
- Flat types that do not rely on glasses; that is, they're autostereoscopic
- Head-mounted displays
- True 3D types, that is, volumetric and holographic.
Key uses include molecular modeling, surgical planning, collaborative design, and playing games. Gaming will drive the development of 3D displays for the consumer market, iSuppli predicts. So, far from being a kitschy gimmick of the 1950s, 3D is emerging as an exciting market of the 21st century.