Analysis by Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Panasonic has seized the initiative in the looming 3D TV battle, showcasing an impressive prototype model of its soon-to-be-released consumer model. Although officially not the exact model to be sold in stores – hence the ‘prototype’ tag – this panel is still a formidable first foray into the new world of television technology.

The screen on show was a 50-inch plasma, which communicates with Panasonic’s specialised glasses, or ‘3D Eyeware’ in the house lingo, to provide greater depth, fast action shots and that all important coming-right-at-you 3D effect. In the happy confines of the Panasonic head office in Northern Sydney, this was a fine insight into what the new craze feels like when in homes.

The content on show today was not as impressive as the machines themselves. Because 3D requires specialised content creation, such as the film ‘Avatar’, attending media were treated only to short demo videos showcasing various aspects of 3D. In the first, we saw how water splashes towards the viewer in a video of white-water rafting. In the next, a console-based car racing game was demonstrated, and the most impressive, a simulated sports video showed volleyballs and baseballs flying towards the audience before mysteriously disappearing in mid-air.

These are attractive toys, and people will want to check it out. But it won’t be as easy as visiting the manufacturer at Friday lunchtime. It’s a four product commitment at launch: new TV, new 3D Blu-ray player, new HDMI 1.4 cable and new 3D glasses. Whilst Panasonic is definitely bundling at least one pair of glasses with the TV at purchase, the cable and player will be sold separately. Panasonic were unable to give any strong price indicators, but understands the range will be somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 for the whole package.

One of the biggest challenges for Panasonic and its rivals will be communicating the vast and esoteric 3D message to consumers and retailers. Paul Reid, the director of Panasonic’s consumer products group, outlined a substantial investment in media to promote 3D. This will all commence after a gala launch for Panasonic’s 2010 range of products, which is scheduled for Melbourne in April.

From today, the 3D product baton passes to Panasonic’s local rival Sony. It has its launch on Tuesday. Interest at this event will be focused on how LCD compares to plasma in the display of 3D. Reid spoke passionately and confidently today in declaring plasma the clear preference for large screen 3D viewing. Sony only produced LCD panels, so it will be looking to produce a good comeback to Reid’s claims. will be covering the Sony Bravia 2010 launch in detail next Tuesday.

The new 50-inch 3D Panasonic Viera.

At 3 inches thick, Pana’s TV is not compromising size for technology.

Panasonic ‘3D Eyeware’ and 3D Blu-ray Player.