We wonder whether 3D TV is a cycnical attempt to cash in on 3D cinema, or really the next big thing that's going to happen to your lounge room
Sorting the gimmicks from the genuine breakthoughs is one of the challenges to anyone visiting the technology extravaganza in Las Vegas that is CES. For every Xbox, there's an HD-DVD player. For every netbook, there's a dozen crappy iPhone knock-offs.
In terms of buzz, there's none bigger this year than 3D TV. Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Toshiba all announced 3D TVs to go onsale in 2010 (though we'll wait to see whether this includes Australia). But with hardly any 3D movies to watch, and questions over price, and whether people will really want to sit in their own lounge rooms, every week, watching TV while looking somewhat vaguely like Roy Orbison - the success of 3D remains to be seen.
While we're yet to see everything there is to see about 3D at CES, here is what we've found so far:
Is there anything to watch in 3D?
Not a lot. If you're wanting to buy a 3D movie on disc, you better like cartoons. Samsung revealed the upcoming release of what it says is the first 3D Blu-Ray disc from Dreamworks, Monsters vs Aliens, though Sony has jumped in since, announcing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for Blu-Ray 3D. The good news is that other types of 3D movies on disc are coming Sony is helping to have a number of pop concerts be filmed in 3D to be released on Blu-Ray in 2010. While live 3D TV channels are far away in Australia, they are being worked on overseas. ESPN has announced a 3D sports channel. The first live 3D TV broadcast in the US was scheduled to occur in this week, with DirecTV planning to offer 3 channels offering movies and sports via 3D. FIFA 2010 will be filmed in 3D and released on Blu-Ray.
The most interesting thing will be whether DVDs and non-3D television converted to 3D will look good. As we've reported, this is one of the big promises being made by Toshiba with its Cell TV.
You'll probably need a new TV
A cycnic might say this whole exercise wouldn't be a money spinner unless you didn't. But you're not a cycnic, right? Not only does your TV need to have a fast enough refresh rate to display two sets of images (one for each eye), but in some cases the sets have special tweaks such as phosphurs that reduce the length of after-images and smooth the 3D picture. We'll be seeking out experts at CES to ask more questions about this.
Different 3D TVs will use different way of displaying images
Already vendors are making claims about why their method is better for displaying images that look like 3D. Panasonic is a prime example, talking up things like "checkered sampling" vs "line-by-line" methods of displaying the two sets of images needed for your eyes.
You'll need a 3D Blu-Ray player
Yes, it's not just the TV. Vendors like Sony are launching a range of 3D-capable players. Remember, the PlaySation 3 will be upgradeable to play 3D Blu-Ray as well as 3D games.
Yes, you'll need to wear the glasses
We're yet to see any major brand at CES pushing a 3D TV that doesn't require them. In most cases these aren't the basic Ray Ban style you might have worn to watch Avatar. In many cases they'll actually require power. For example, Sony's 3D TVs use a "frame sequential" display method, which involves active-shutter glasses that turn on and off in sync with the images. Some TVS come with the glasses and have the transmitter built in, but again, in some cases you'll need to buy the transmitter and glasses separately.
Also see: Ridiculously Impressive Tech at CES 2010: Toshiba's Cell TV