More than 10 per cent of TVs sold worldwide could have 3D capability by 2011, rising to 16 per cent or 2.8bn sets by 2015.
That’s the prediction of research by Screen Digest, which suggests that technological advances mean today’s 3D cinema viewing experience will soon be possible at home.
The researchers’ forecasts are, however, dependent on a unifying standard emerging that works across all technologies.
If that fails to materialise, Display Search downgrades its estimates to 3D-capable sets accounting for just three per cent of sales by 2015 – or 500m units.
At present the most reliable technology will require consumers to invest in a new TV and wear special 3D glasses.
But Screen Digest believes that autostereoscopic technology will eventually become most popular as it has one major advantage: no glasses.
Stressing that the 3D market is in its infancy and that mass uptake is a long way off, the report says that 3D requires twice the broadcast bandwidth of today’s two-dimensional viewing experience.
For this reason, Screen Digest expects Blu-ray Disc to provide the main method of distribution, as its hi-def content capacity bypasses the bandwidth issue altogether.
Since Screen 3D films attract a premium of up to 50 per cent on cinema tickets, the researchers note that Hollywood Studios have a vested interest in getting 3D entertainment into homes.
Marie Bloomfield, analyst at Screen Digest, said since no-one wants a costly replay of the hi-def disc format war, industry associations are already working together to establish a viable roadmap to make that happen.
She said that due to higher bandwidth and incremental production costs, when it does come to the small screen, 3D TV programming will be the reserve of paying customers only.
"What 3D offers the Studios and pay TV operators is an opportunity to charge a premium for content – perhaps even more so than high definition," she said.
"But as it is emerging in the middle of a recession, the home 3D market is in a Catch 22 situation.
"Consumers will not be persuaded to invest in new equipment to experience 3D until there is enough content; and content production will not ramp up until there is a significant audience.
"3D in the home will therefore be a slow burn, remaining a niche business for the foreseeable future."
3D movie production has increased rapidly.
In 2008, there were seven films; in 2009 there will be 17 and a further 28 are due to be released in 2010.
Compared with live action, animated films are much easier to adapt to 3D and Disney and DreamWorks Animation have been quick to grasp the opportunity.
Together they account for more than half of the 3D film release slate.
It is more challenging to produce 3D TV programming on broadcasting budgets, yet nonetheless several broadcasters have launched trials around sporting events.
In conclusion, Screen Digest predicts that it may be 3D games and not movies or TV that arrives in the home first.
Gaming is an early adopter market, consoles and software could be upgraded relatively painlessly and gamers are more willing to adopt peripherals such as glasses, all of which make it an ideal home entry point for 3D technology.