The most recent international consumer electronic show just ended in Las Vegas, Nevada. This showcase of the latest electronic gadgets was dominated by 3D, the third dimension. In fact, C-NET just gave their “Best of CES” award to a Panasonic 3D HDTV (high definition television). It’s not just Panasonic who are pushing 3D TV’s though, there were also offerings by Samsung, LG and Sony.
If you own a Playstation 3, you may be interested to know that Sony have said that the PS3 can be firmware upgraded to support 3D content, which means that the forthcoming Blu-Ray 3D discs and Playstation 3D games will be compatible with existing Playstation 3 units. Of course, the fact that Sony helped popularise Blu-Ray, sells PS3’s which can play Blu-Ray discs as well as PS3 games and has a movie studio (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) committed to offering 3D Blu-Ray content gives them a head-start in selling their 3D-TV’s!
One major hurdle with getting people to upgrade their televisions to 3D is that there’s not a lot of viewable content at the moment. Despite the forthcoming launches of 3D channels by Sky (in the UK) and Directv (in the USA) in 2010, both of which say that 3D content can be delivered through their existing HD set top boxes, there still won’t be much 3D content for them to broadcast.
A second major hurdle is that everyone wanting to watch the 3DTV content will need a pair of special 3D glasses. The glasses are required to view the 3D effect, although the 3DTV’s will function perfectly well as regular 2D screens for the time you’re watching 2D content. So if you want to get a dozen friends round to watch the football, they’ll all need their special glasses.
For the upcoming 3DTV’s we’re not talking cheap, disposable red/blue glasses, either. The 3D glasses required for the new 3-D TV’s are what’s known as “active shutter” which means they synchronise with the TV to show images alternatively to the left eye then the right eye. While one eye sees an image, the other eye sees nothing as that side of the glasses is darkened. Your brain stitches the alternating images into a coherent 3D image.
Panasonic have said that their new 3DTV’s will ship with the 3D glasses, as have Sony, but no other manufacturer has committed to shipping the glasses with the TV set. Of course, you’ll need more than one pair of glasses if there’s more than one person in your household.
It’s perhaps most likely that the early adopters of the 3D world will be gamers. The graphic card manufacturer, nVidia, is already offering glasses and software (Nvidia 3D Vision) which changes almost any computer game into a 3D version, as long as you have a graphics card with enough power and a screen which can refresh at 120Hz, enough to give each eye a flicker-free view of the action. Most people’s computers and monitors won’t be good enough, but avid gamers will be quick to upgrade once they see the impressive 3D effects and the added immersion 3D brings to gameplay.