Technology

CES: 3D TV Will Try, Try Again

Industry to take another run at third dimension this year 1/02/2011 09:00:00 PM Eastern

If at first you don't succeed ... well, try those
funny-looking glasses on again.

Following the mega-hype surrounding 3D at the 2010 Consumer
Electronics Show, sales of 3D-capable TV sets closed out the year with a
whimper and content was scarce. But the industry will be back in Las Vegas for
round two this week, to try to break through to the third dimension.

"The 3DTV
manufacturers can't afford for it to fizzle away - you'll see more aggressive
pricing," Technicolor chief marketing officer Ahmad Ouri said. "What remains
constant is the lack of 3D content."

That's bound to change in 2011. Discovery Communications,
Sony and IMAX - which announced a partnership to create a 24-hour 3D channel at
last year's CES - are expected unveil the official name for the network and
announce initial affiliates in Las Vegas this week, according to industry
sources. (The companies declined to provide further details ahead of the
launch.)

The Culver City, Calif.-based venture, which has been doing
business with the placeholder name "3D Net," has already announced parts of its
programming lineup. That includes several original series produced in native 3D
on bull riding, motocross, jet-skiing and other extreme action sports, plus
IMAX's Into the Deep 3D, Sony's
animated Cloudy With a Chance of
Meatballs
and documentaries like Magnificent
Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D
.

HBO is also getting into the three-dimensional action, with
plans to debut a slate of 3D movies on-demand with Comcast and Verizon
Communications' FiOS TV this week (see HBO 3D VOD story, p. TK). And In Demand
in January will premiere several 3D VOD titles, including Shrek Forever After, Despicable
Me
and Alpha and Omega.

3D ECOSYSTEM

"In 2011, we
will witness the beginning of the emergence of a 3D ecosystem for home
entertainment," said Shahid Khan, chairman of digital-media measurement firm
MediaMorph. But "3DTV will not become mainstream for a number of years," he
added.

A trend that could spur uptake: 3DTVs that support cheaper -
and more comfortable - passive, polarized glasses, like those used in movie
theaters. The first generation of 3D sets used battery-powered active-shutter
glasses, which are pricier (at up to $150 a pop) and bulkier, but kept the
costs of the sets themselves lower.

Vizio is expected to show off the 65-inch Razor LED LCD HDTV
with passive glasses. The "Theater 3D" technology produces "clear, flicker-free
3D images that are noticeably brighter than conventional 3D," the vendor
claims. The set, with four sets of 3D glasses, will sell for an initial list
price of $3,500.

Toshiba, for its part, has developed an "autostereoscopic"
consumer 3DTV television, which means it requires no headgear at all. But the sets
are considerably more expensive than glasses-based 3DTVs and require you to sit
fairly still, lest you destroy the three-dimensional illusion.

The Regza GL1 is being introduced initially in Japan, priced
at about $1,440 U.S. for a 12-inch model and $2,880 for the 20-inch version.

Meanwhile, Broadcom will demo a supercharged set-top
system-on-a-chip, with more than twice the horsepower of previous generations,
to deliver full-resolution 3DTV, as opposed to today's "frame-compatible"
format that requires no new video-delivery infrastructure. "Operators are
supporting 3D today on MPEG-4 devices, but there's strong demand and pull for
full 3D," Broadcom senior director of marketing for set-top-box products John
Gleiter said.

So far, 3D television hasn't knocked viewers' socks off.
Fewer than 1% of U.S. households have an HDTV set that is 3D-capable, while 61%
have at least one high-definition TV set, according to a November 2010 survey
conducted by Leichtman Research Group. Almost 80% of adults in the U.S. have
heard of 3DTV, but of those, just 8% are "very interested" in getting a 3D
television set.

SCREEN FLINGS

Delivering video to iPad-like tablets, smart phones and
other devices also will be a big story line at CES, with Cisco Systems,
Motorola, SeaChange International and Technicolor each teeing up demonstrations
in this domain.

Motorola Mobility is expected to launch a tablet computer,
based on the "Honeycomb" version of Google's Android operating system designed
for tablet devices. In addition, the company will showcase a device to let pay
TV subscribers stream video from set-tops to mobile devices within the home.

SeaChange will team up with set-top box and chip makers that
have integrated its VividLogic Tru2way software stack, showing how TV operators
can deliver video to "every screen" in the connected home.

And Technicolor will feature a software-based "multi-device
user experience" centered around providing simple content navigation with
social-networking capabilities. The solution also promises to let consumers get
video on any connected device in the home, regardless of media source.

"We believe the
timing is right for network service providers," Technicolor's Ouri said. "What
they're all going to be shopping for this CES is, how do they compete with the
over-the-top guys and cut down on the cord-shaving?"

 

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