3D promise displayed on TVs, games

2010 is turning out to be the year of 3D, and industry watchers pinpoint televisions and games as two key areas where technology will next flourish on.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Following the success of 3D technology in the film industry, as epitomized by the success of James Cameron's Hollywood 3D blockbuster, "Avatar", industry watchers see television and games as the next platforms the technology will flourish on.

According to Chris Perrine, chief operations officer for Springboard Research, 3D is currently "all about entertainment" and it makes sense for both TV and games to be next in line to receive a 3D makeover.

This sentiment is echoed by Samsung Asia's director of strategic marketing, Irene Ng, who told ZDNet Asia in her e-mail how 3D will be best experienced through a home entertainment ecosystem that includes "3D TVs, 3D Blu-ray players and 3D home theater systems with 3D Blu-ray content".

She believes that consumers want to recreate a cinematic experience in their homes, and that this desire will help drive the mass adoption of 3D TVs and related technology.

However, in a separate ZDNet Asia report, Frost & Sullivan's Vidya S Nath believes mass adoption of 3D TVs is some 10 years away. He added that prohibitive costs are likely to drive 3D TVs along the same path as high-definition TVs (HDTVs). The latter was talked about for 10 years, but embraced only in the last two years when prices fell to a point where mass adoption was possible.

3D development in games
Rival TV manufacturer Sony also highlighted the tremendous potential for 3D in gaming.

A Sony spokesperson said that immersive and impactful 3D experience will "bring home entertainment [such as gaming] to a whole new level". To leverage on this, the Japanese consumer electronics giant recently expanded the horizons of 3D by introducing stereoscopic games for its PlayStation 3 game console for Europe, with titles like "Wipeout HD", "PAIN", "Super Stardust HD" and "MotorStorm Pacific Rift".

Stereoscopy is generally known as a technique capable of recording 3D visual information or creating an illusion of depth in an image.

Competitor Nintendo had also earlier announced the 3DS, the update to its popular Nintendo DS portable gaming device, which will come with a 3D screen that will not require users to wear special glasses.

According to a report by ZDNet Asia's sister site, CNET News, a DisplaySearch analyst was cited as saying that the Japanese company may be using parallex barrier technology, even though Nintendo had not revealed what 3D technology it intends to use for the 3DS.

Sharp, which has been using parallex barrier technology for some time, earlier this month revealed a 3D display that does not require users to wear special goggles.

Financial Times, which reported on this, noted that this display is the first of its kind to offer image quality close to that of a 2D liquid crystal display and will "raise the prospect of 3D becoming standard on mobile devices such as phones and digital cameras".

In the same article, Sharp was cited as a possible supplier for the display component of the Nintendo 3DS.

Content, user experience key to 3D adoption
Content, however, is seen as crucial to driving mass adoption of 3D on any platform--be it on TV, mobile devices or in games.

"The availability of content has been the key obstacle to the mass adoption of 3D technology," said Samsung's Ng. To make the content more accessible, Samsung announced a global strategic alliance with DreamWorks Animation SKG and Technicolor to enable the delivery of a complete 3D home entertainment solution in 2010. As part of this alliance, a 3D Blu-ray version of DreamWorks' film animation, "Monsters vs. Aliens", was produced which will be bundled with the company's 3D starter kit, she said.

In an earlier report by ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET Australia, Samsung will offer another film, "Shrek", later in the year. Competitor Panasonic holds exclusive right to telecast "Ice Age" and "Coraline" in 3D until 2011, while Sony has announced its intention to release the 3D version of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs".

Meanwhile, consumers who want a 3D experience out of regular high-definition (HD) content can tap on Samsung's 2D-to-3D conversion technology to render regular content with pseudo 3D effects on the fly. This, Ng said, will allow people to enjoy a new level of depth and clarity when watching sports, which will be especially popular during this year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

In terms of sports content, Ericsson also announced earlier in April that it is collaborating with sports broadcaster ESPN to provide the first 3D sports channel. The Swedish network manufacturer will provide the latter with a TV network complete with a "standards-based video-processing solution that will feature encoders and receivers tuned for ESPN 3D broadcasts, as well as for high-quality HD", according to the company's press release.

For Springboard's Perrine, user experience is another key driver for the technology.

"3D has been around for ages--my parents went to 3D movies in the 1960s. [But] it was until the technology was able to provide a better user experience that 3D got a boost in the movie theaters," he said. Once 3D performance reaches a point where it is a better experience, Perrine believes we will "see more adoption in new platforms".

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