To movie-goers thrilled by the Avatar 3D experience on the big screen, the range of new televisions on show at CES 2011 in Las Vegas holds the breathtaking possibility that the action is moving into the living room. Some of them can watch the animated comedy Megamind in 3D Blu Ray this year, right at home.
Despite all that excitement, stereoscopic 3D network television (as opposed to home video) may not be ready for prime time anytime soon because content providers will take time to find a viable business model before investing in upgraded networks. In India, even HDTV is not a major phenomenon (what became of Doordarshan's HD channel announced during the Commonwealth Games, some may ask).
At the CES, the focus was not so much on business as on the technology possibilities. Major companies such as Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic talked about immersive television viewing in 3D (watch a slideshow at http://bit.ly/3dtvces).
There is no finality on what kind of technology will prevail in the 3D area when it comes to the glasses that must be worn to get the three dimensional experience-active shutter which requires powered glasses (to enable the 3D effect using shutters that synchronise with the refresh rate of the TV or display monitor) or passive glasses which are now being promoted by some companies as the better alternative.
The rechargeable glasses are expensive, for a start, and family viewing requires more than one pair. Much will also be heard about the relative benefits and any concerns surrounding different 3D technologies in the near future, going by the debate that has been launched in Japan on the need for safety standards.
Some companies came up with prototype displays of 3D at the CES that do not require the use of special glasses. Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screens have the potential for “glassless 3D,” but are not yet ready for commercialisation due to what Samsung calls low ‘yields' and high costs. Initially, it could find application in medicine, rather than broadcasting. The production of content for three dimensional viewing without glasses requires ‘ultra definition' as well, which at current costs is not realistic. “We could expect that OLED will come to the market around 2013,” a Samsung spokesperson told invited Indian journalists at CES.
Yet, interest in 3D is growing. The CES featured not just standard-sized 3D camcorders for self-produced content, but even a palm-sized version from Sony, the Bloggie (which can also record full HD 2D video).
Samsung says it was the first to launch 3D TVs globally and in India in March 2010. “We hold 80 per cent of the 3D TV market in the U.S. We launched the largest range of 3D TVs across the LCD (2 models), LED (5 models ) and Plasma (1 model) platforms,” the spokesperson said. The market size for 3D TVs in India was about 25,000 during 2010 and Samsung expects it to double this year. It is working on content partnerships with Indian providers during the current year.
Movies and sports will be major push factors for 3D penetration, and the investments that broadcasters have to make to get channels ready and for bandwidth to carry the feed are high. Animation giant DreamWorks announced at the CES that it was collaborating with the Samsung to offer video on demand on the company's televisions through its applications marketplace. ESPN says on its website that it will offer 24x7 service in the U.S. from mid-February.