I’m at CES this week – the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which this year looks to be dominated by 3D TV launches
CES is geek heaven: the biggest electronics show in the world, where major manufacturers launch their new products for the year.
Apparently 3D TV has become something of a tradition here, with grand claims being made for such devices almost every year, with little real-world results. This time, however, things are different. Panasonic and LG have unveiled ranges of 3D enabled sets but perhaps the most compelling case came from Sony at a glitzy press launch today.
Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer announced a range of 3D TVs (on sale in the US in the summer) that certainly worked impressively on the demo stand. Yes, you still need to wear glasses (not the old red and green ones but the ‘shuttered’ type currently in use at cinemas) but the results, for both broadcast TV and gaming, were amazing – none of which can be seen by my rubbish pictures in this post.
UPDATE: I have some more info on how the Sony 3D TV system works. You need three things: a 3D capable TV, a transmitter and some ‘Active Shutter’ glasses. The transmitter sends a signal to the glasses that opens and closes the shutter 200 times a second to create the 3D effect. The 3D Tvs that Sony is launching in the summer will have built-in transmitters. Otherwise, there will be a free upgrade to the PS3 that will turn it into one, or else you need to buy a separate box.
Having to wear the glasses feels a bit clumsy and limiting. Apparently other manufacturers have tried systems which don’t need glasses, instead they use a lens which is put in front of the TV screen. Sony say that these lenses are, at present, prohibitively expensive and that you need to sit directly in front of the TV for them to work well. So it looks like we’re stuck with the specs for now.
But what marks Sony’s approach out from its competitors is that it also makes content to show on its new gadgets – through Sony Pictures. And it makes the cameras used to shoot the stuff in the first place. So getting us all to buy into 3D is very much in its interests.
Stringer made two more announcements which mean that 3D is finally something to be taken seriously. Sony is partnering with Discovery and Imax to launch a 3D version of the Discovery Channel in 2011 (cue lots of sharks leaping out of the screen to terrifiy viewers). And it is also partnering with ESPN to launch ESPN 3D in June. ESPN will show 25 World Cup games in 3D as part of 85 events that will be broadcast in 3D during the channel’s first year.
A lot has been made of the success of James Cameron’s Avatar in pushing 3D but Sony clearly believes that sport will be a prime driver in its adoption.
And where broadcasters go, advertisers will follow. The potential for creating stunning commercials and music videos is huge. In another cross-group tie-in, Stringer announced that Sony will be releasing a whole host of concerts and other music-related content in 3D from artists on Sony Music. Plus, it will make a ‘firmware’ upgrade available for PS3’s to enable 3D gaming in the autumn.
More gadgetry tomorrow.