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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Television makers are scrambling this year to lay the groundwork for 3-D TV, hoping viewers will be able to reach out and touch their movies as soon as 2010, when the global economy may begin to recover.
Now that flat-panel TVs -- once the belles of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- have become de-rigueur in many homes around the globe, the world's top TV manufacturers are searching for the next big idea to spark consumer demand.
At this year's show, several displayed and discussed advances in three-dimensional, high-definition (HD) TV in the home, led by Panasonic, which says it is trying to have the framework of an industry-wide standard completed this year.
Their selling point: bringing the in-your-face, out-of-the-screen immediacy of 3-D pioneering movies such as "Jaws 3D" directly into the living room.
"Panasonic doesn't think that 3-D, full HD for the home is far away at all," said Yoshi Yamada, chairman and chief executive of Panasonic Corp of North America during his CES address on Wednesday. "We are discussing this now with other major manufacturers and Hollywood studios."
"But for 3-D, full HD systems to succeed, we know that there needs to be 3-D, full HD content," he said.
With this in mind, Panasonic is marshaling its forces.
The Japanese firm is talking with Oscar-winning director James Cameron -- who helmed the top-grossing "Titanic" -- on his upcoming 3-D film "Avatar."
It's building a 3-D, Blu-ray disk-authoring center that it hopes will open in February and allow Hollywood studios to create commercially available titles with this technology by 2010.
And it has opened discussions with unspecified rival manufacturers.
New media technologies, and the audio and video that play on them, must be developed hand-in-hand. Otherwise, the industry risks another prolonged format-war, such as the ones revolving around Blu-ray versus HD-DVD or, further back, VHS versus Betamax.
With the global economy on its knees and consumers thinking twice about even basic purchases like fuel and clothing, analysts say it's uncertain whether the new technology will take off, especially since so many consumers have just purchased new flat-screen TVs.
"It's taking a little time to do that. There's a lot of elements to it in terms of getting content created and how we work with the content community," said Tim Baxter, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Samsung Electronics America.
"It also involves a social dynamic of wearing glasses and ... how many people do it."
Manufacturers already make TVs they say are capable of displaying three-dimensional images without the need for polarizing glasses, but most experts agree a truly high-quality image is farther down the road.
For now, Panasonic and Samsung are forging ahead with their initiatives, hoping to catch the economic and industry upturn.
In Las Vegas, Panasonic showed off its new home theater system, which -- along with special eyeglasses -- enables the viewing of 3D FHD images via a Panasonic 103-inch plasma TV and a Blu-ray player.
Samsung also debuted its own 3-D monitor at the show.
Additional reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Edwin Chan