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Issue: Volume: 33 Issue: 3 (Mar. 2010)

Editor's Note

By: Karen Moltenbrey
Electronics Evolution

In January, techies from around the world flocked to the bright lights of Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to ooh and ah over the latest and greatest electronic gizmos and devices. It is indeed the paradise of paradises for uber geeks, as companies such as Apple, Panasonic, Samsung, and a host of others unveil their wares, from cameras, to telephones, to electronic readers, and more. You name it, and if it has an “on” button and a screen, it probably was there.

So, what got everyone talking? To no one’s surprise, it’s 3D TVs. Yup, 3D in your living room. Indeed, 3D for the home has been on our doorstep for some time now. The inroad was gaming. After all, gamers are at the top of the geek meter—they live for cutting-edge electronics?.?.?.?and for 3D. Capitalizing on this last year, Nvidia rolled out its GeForce 3D Vision system for turning PCs into stereo devices for gaming and home entertainment. Dynamic Digital Depth offered an affordable 3D conversion package, as well. There were also stereo monitors, including those from iZ3D, making gameplay even more exciting.

This year, the show featured a host of 3D monitors, including glasses-free autostereo displays from Magnetic 3D and others. The aisles also were filled with 3D televisions. Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, LG, Vizio, and others announced HD TVs that are expected to be available later in the year. Samsung and Toshiba take this one step further, claiming their televisions will actually convert 2D programs to 3D, so that all the content will be in stereo. The downside: Viewers will have to wear stereo glasses. While some claim that glasses will deter from the experience, surveys show just the opposite: Viewers want the 3D experience, and if they have to wear glasses to have it, then so be it. But, when the time comes—and it is coming, this year in fact—will they feel the same way? Some TVs will require simple, cheap (less than $10) polarized glasses, similar to those you get at movie theaters. Others utilize heavier active shutter glasses that are far more costly, about $50 each. But here’s the thing: Everyone in the family will have to put them on to watch their favorite shows, as none of the televisions previewed thus far enable dual-viewing for 2D and 3D simultaneously. So, if you are not wearing the glasses, the images on the screen will look distorted. Yes, we are all willing to don a pair of glasses to watch the latest theater action. But doing so for two hours every so many weeks is hardly comparable to putting them on every single night.

No doubt stereo TVs have gotten a big push from the hype surrounding Avatar, a project that in and of itself proves why stereoscopic 3D is so alluring. In addition to Avatar, there were other 3D movies released in 2009, and when it came time for Act 2—the home release—studios are savvy enough to incorporate 3D content. Available on Blu-ray for your 3D pleasure this year: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol—and expect more to follow. Yes, there are existing Blu-ray and DVD discs in 3D, such as Coraline and Journey to the Center of the Earth, but these are presented in the old anaglyph style—that is, 3D without the HD punch. A must-have with the 3D Blu-ray releases: a 3D TV and Blu-ray player, so it’s hardly surprising that this 3D movie rollout for the home is backed through relationships between the film studios and various 3D TV makers. Still not sold on a 3D television? On the broadcast side, DirecTV has announced three 3D channels available to customers this summer (Panasonic will be the exclusive presenting sponsor of these new HD 3D channels), while Discovery (through a joint venture with Sony and IMAX) and ESPN are embracing the trend, as well. ESPN announced at least 85 sporting events in 2010 on its new channel, starting with several FIFA World Cup matches this summer. Other events on tap: NBA and college basketball games and college football games (including the BCS National Championship match-up). And who is sponsoring these events? Sony has signed on as an official sponsor of ESPN’s 3D network.

It’s clear that 3D TV manufacturers are invested in the concept of bringing stereo to the home. And, they are doing what they can to make sure that viewers have access to 3D content. After all, what’s the point of buying a 3D TV if there is nothing to watch in stereo? Didn’t we say the same thing about HD just a few years ago? It started with some very expensive TVs and a bit of content, but soon the prices dropped to where the average person could justify the purchase, and more and more content thus became available. Now it’s readily available in the home. Soon, so, too, will be 3D.
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