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Innovation

CES 2009: I demo Panasonic's 3D Full HD Plasma Home Theater System

One of the hottest tickets—literally—at CES this year is to demo Panasonic's 3D Full HD Plasma Home Theater System setup, which uses a 103-inch plasma and a Blu-ray player to give users full 1080p content for each eye that's then yoked together into three dimensions with a special set of glasses and 3D drivers for the plasma.
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Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on

One of the hottest tickets—literally—at CES this year is to demo Panasonic's 3D Full HD Plasma Home Theater System setup, which uses a 103-inch plasma and a Blu-ray player to give users full 1080p content for each eye that's then yoked together into three dimensions with a special set of glasses and 3D drivers for the plasma. People have to queue up hourly at Panasonic's booth for a chance to get a ticket for a showing an hour or two later in a darkened room with about 25 other curiosity seekers.

If you don't have at tween daughter who dragged you to see the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert movie in 3D last year, you may not know that the movie industry is making a big push for the technology to become the latest trend (50 years after it was previously the latest trend) in movie watching in the near future. Panasonic's demo uses some clips of Hollywood's recent 3D materials—clips from the Journey to the Center of the Earth and a preview of Disney's recent animated flick Bolt—along with footage of undersea exploring, NBA action, WWE matches, and footage from the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Some of it involves the usual gimmicks common to 3D productions, like an animated character kicking a soccer ball straight at you or confetti being thrown up that seemingly falls right on you. There are other times when people take on an unrealistic, almost holographic quality that is particularly disconcerting when watching a sporting event. Where the effect works best is in bringing out the depth of an image, such as letting you see into the stands at the wrestling matches or to discern the synchronized movements of hundreds of Chinese dancers in a way not possible in two-dimensional viewing.

There's no public roadmap for when Panasonic's system might be released for consumers, though you can bet you'll be paying a lot for the privilege of wearing those silly glasses when it does get commercially produced. Given the quality of some of the 3D footage on display, there doesn't seem to be a particular hurry. It's clear that a lot more creativity needs to be applied to the technique beyond pretending to throw things into people's faces in order for 3D video to be viewed as more than a novelty that's appreciated most by children. Hopefully, Hollywood's push for more 3D will result in more sophisticated approaches to its perceptive potential.

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