3dtvPropelled by 3-D viewable movies like Avatar, the revenue for 3-D viewable displays is expected to hit $22 billion by 2018, according to market researcher DisplaySearch.

The numbers sound really optimistic. Are they silly? I thought 3-D was a complete dud until I saw Avatar, which just hit $1 billion in box office revenues. But the numbers make more sense if you realize that 3-D is about to hit the high end of the TV market. 3DTV vendors will be out in force at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

DisplaySearch says the market for computer, TV and other 3-D displays was 700,000 units, with revenues of $902 million, in 2008. By 2018, that will grow to 196 million units sold for $22 billion. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 38 percent for revenues and 75 percent for units. About 64 million of the displays in 2018 will be 3-D viewable TVs, according to DisplaySearch.

The 3-D display market is expected to take off in 2010, says DisplaySearch’s Jennifer Colegrove, director of display technologies. Promoters include makers of TVs, monitors, notebook computers, Blu-ray disc players, digital cameras, camcorders, and photo frames.

The key target markets here will be gamers and movie aficionados. But there’s no guarantee that something that looks really good in 3-D at the movie theater, like Avatar, is going to be compelling enough on a flat-panel TV to get consumers to shell out for this functionality.

But at some point, 3-D becomes a standard part of the hardware inside a TV. That’s probably where the real numbers will start to accumulate in favor of 3-D. The growth of 3-D movie theaters will drive the interest for 3-D in the home. In 2010, says DisplaySearch, 7,000 new movie theater screens will get 3-D capability.

DisplaySearch forecasts 3D-ready TVs will grow from 0.2 million units in 2009 to 64 million units in 2018. 3D-ready TV will be the largest application in terms of revenue in 2018 with $17 billion, the company says. And 3-D ready computer monitors will grow from 40,000 in 2009 to 10 million in 2018, when they will constitute 3.6 percent of monitors sold. There are roughly 150 companies participating in the market now.