TV in 3D at home could become mainstream in as little as two years as prices for 3D TV sets drop and events like the soccer World Cup raise awareness of the technology. Although many believe that consumers will never want to wear 3D glasses at home, and 3D TVs have only been on sale for a matter of months, there may be faster adoption of 3D than of previous new technologies. Soccer bets from betting.com will be even more intense with 3D TVs in peoples living rooms, the stakes will feel even higher!
Unlike high-definition video or the VHS-Betamax battle before it, where deployment was held up for years while movie studios and electronics makers supporting rival formats battled for dominance, 3D presents no such prospect as the HDMI cables that connect set-top boxes to televisions or other screens can detect and support many different standards.
Often, new technology finds itself in a chicken-and-egg conundrum in which consumers do not buy new equipment until content is available, while media companies are not motivated to produce content until consumers buy the equipment to consume it.
But TVs are already on sale from Samsung that convert 2D signals into 3D in real-time, meaning that consumers can already start to enjoy images leaping out of the screen, even with little original 3D content yet available. DSG, Europe’s second-biggest electronics retailer, said TV sales rose 50% year-on-year in the run-up to the soccer World Cup, with 3D creating a lot of buzz.
The technology isn’t perfect yet but could soon eliminate the need for equipment that studios use to upgrade 2D to 3D, which many analysts consider potential choice investments. Stu Lipoff, a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – the world’s largest technical society – said: “It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in 30years in engineering. The processing power is comparable to what five years ago you’d only find on a supercomputer in a university lab.” The technology is made by the likes of Texas Instruments, Broadcom and NXP. Samsung, which was first to market, is expected to sell the lion’s share of 3D TVs this year, but Sony, Panasonic, and LG are not far behind. Samsung and Sony may be in discussions about a 3D alliance, and Sony hopes 3D models will make up 10percent of the more than 25 million LCD TVs it aims to sell in the next fiscal year. Technology research firm ISuppli expects 4.2 million 3D TV sets to be sold this year, or about two percent of all LCD TVs, rising to 78 million in 2015.
Interest in 3D has grown very quickly, both among experts and the general public. Public enthusiasm for 3D has been driven by the blockbuster movie Avatar, released at the end of 2009, which single-handedly raised awareness from 40 percent to 60percent among US consumers, according to analyst Stewart Clarke of research firm Informa.
Walt Disney sports broadcaster ESPN used the soccer World Cup to launch its first 3D channel, and ESPN’s president said the network had had “off the charts” success with its coverage. And in the UK, satellite broadcaster BSkyB and its major shareholder News Corp are making big bets on 3D. Sky plans to launch a 3D channel this year after whetting appetites with broadcasts in bars of Premier League soccer. “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s fantastic.
It’s the biggest development since black and white,” said Robert Kerr, a 27-year-old projects consultant, near London’s Westfield mall.
Informa believes 3D TV will take off only after the need to wear glasses has been removed, which it forecasts will happen some time after 2015. But the IEEE’s Lipoff says it is not unreasonable to believe it could happen in two to four years.
LG has recently started offering 3D TV sets that can be viewed wearing so-called passive glasses that are far cheaper and lighter than battery-powered active- shutter glasses. The televisions are more expensive because more of the work is done inside the set, but the glasses cost next to nothing.
Technology to view 3D without glasses does exist – chipmaker Intel demonstrated a version at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – but is limited by only being viewable from certain angles. As such, it is more likely to succeed on screens watched by a single viewer like computer and cellphone displays. Sean McCarthy, a video and neurobiology expert at Motorola, said: “Not wearing glasses could be more constraining than wearing glasses.” —
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