Television viewers will soon be able to watch sport and films in 3D format, but a stark safety warning issued by the world's largest TV maker may turn some would-be buyers from the technology. Samsung Electronics said in a long safety guideline on its website that viewers of 3D TV could suffer epileptic seizures and strokes. It also said sleep deprivation or consumption of alcohol while watching 3D programmes could be unsafe. The South Korean company said on its Australian website pregnant women and the elderly should avoid the 3D function, and children and teenagers were more susceptible to health risks.
Kevin Ribeiro, the business group manager at the consultancy GfK Retail and Technology, said he still expected curious consumers to buy but the safety warnings would make some shoppers think twice. "People have invested pretty heavily in our region into LCDs and LEDs for now," Mr Ribeiro said, referring to TV sets using liquid crystal displays and light-emitting diode displays. "But for a new product, a new technology coming, it's a big question mark, especially with these safety concerns."
The advisory comes less than a month before the first 3D sets are due to arrive in the GCC. Samsung sets are expected to arrive next month, followed by Panasonic in June and Sony in July. The sets are already on sale in the US, and retailers hope the cutting-edge technology will boost the global consumer electronics industry. Samsung hopes to sell 2 million TV sets over the next year, and Sony aims to sell 2.5 million. Global shipments could reach 4.2 million this year, and more than triple to 12.9 million next year, according to the market researcher iSuppli.
The demand is expected to be sparked by the success of the 3D film Avatar, and by plans to broadcast the FIFA World Cup this summer in 3D. Forecasts for the electronics industry stand in contrast to last year's bleak results. Consumer electronics sales in the UAE last year fell 33.8 per cent to Dh2.19 billion (US$596 million), as retailers and makers cut prices to bring in shoppers, data from GfK showed.
The new 3D TVs will not be cheap. Samsung's price range is likely to be between Dh10,000 (US$2,722) and Dh25,000 for TV screens between 100cm and 160cm, said Ram Modak, the general manager of Samsung's audiovisual division in the Gulf. These prices do not include the cost of compatible Blu-Ray players or 3D glasses. Mr Modak said the company was optimistic for sales of 3D TVs and that 3D was "the way forward for the industry" and that the safety issue would need to be studied.
"We will need to study all the material elsewhere and accordingly take action," he said. "Obviously, if it is a safety issue or impacts the health of our consumer, surely it will be our concern." Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst with Shuaa Capital in Dubai, said while many electronic devices come with safety warnings, the advisory on 3D technology seemed unusually strong. But Mr Gally said the initial buzz around 3D technology would draw in consumers and the weeks after first sales would be the true test.
"The fashion element of the product and the technology will prevail although the sales, maybe, will not meet their full potential, because some people will be waiting for evidence of side effects of the products," he said. Neil D'Sylva, the corporate communications manager for Sony Gulf, said it had tested its 3D technology in Tokyo to ensure its safety: "We've got clearance from a third-party laboratory and we have not got any negative feedback."