The cable industry’s research and development arm has proudly announced that 3D testing is on. This will allow TV manufactures and cable companies to begin having their equipment tested for 3D interoperability. Along the way CableLabs has also confirmed that many of the existing set-top boxes will work with “frame-compatible” 3D formats — like side by side pictured above. This is exactly what DirecTV announced it would use and is the very same standards that HDMI added to the spec. Basically it allows providers to dedicate the same amount of bandwidth to 3D as it was to 2D. Of course this means that the resolution is cut in half (horizontally in the case of side by side) but we’re told that sharpness isn’t as perceivable in 3D as it is in 2D and after seeing the DirecTV 3D demo at CES, we believe it. Unlike the adoption of HD, it doesn’t look like the cable industry is going to let the satellite companies run away with the new technology unchallenged like last time.
Not sure why we’ve been putting this off, but we’ll just come right out and say it: there’s no doubt that this was the year for 3D at CES. We walked the show floor for countless hours and can tell you that just about everyone was showing something related to 3D at their booths. Most of these demos required a bit of a wait to experience them (thanks, hype), and everywhere you went people were talking about 3D. Granted, not all of that talk was positive, but it was talk nonetheless. Whether or not the technology will be seen in history as a success in the market place is obviously still up in the air, and much like a finely crafted episode of Lost, 3D at CES this year was littered with more questions than answers.
Who will be the first, the best?
Someone has to be the first to market, and someone the best — though not necessarily the same company — but based on CES demos and announcements, that someone appears to be Panasonic. This isn’t much of a surprise since Panasonic has been doing lots of 3D demos since CES last year, and it even drove a truck around the country showing it off. But while Panasonic had the best 3D demo this year, it might not be first to market, as DLP fans will tell you they were first (and by years). That said, this new 3D technology isn’t exactly the same as what Mitsubishi and Samsung have been doing, but the new formats will be backwards compatible. Mitsubishi announced a new converter box that will allow the newer sequential 3D to checkerboard 3D that its DLP sets support, and it is assumed this same box will work on Samsung DLPs and plasmas. These aren’t the only front runners, ‘course. In fact Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Vizio were all talking 3D in press releases and showing live action demos. Like the rest of the HD market, most of the new 3DTVs were LCDs, and although LG did announce new plasmas, none were of the 3D variety like Samsung and Panny. Only Vizio dared to put a price on 3D, and some manufacturers wouldn’t even give model numbers, so it’s hard to tell exactly when this technology is going to come home (and how badly it’ll dent the wallet when it does). Still, we’d be shocked to see ship dates slip beyond 2010, and if we were the betting type, we’d guess that the first wave will land in the summer.
3D Blu-ray players will obviously play an important role as in-home 3D attempts to blossom, and Broadcom was on hand showing off its new chip for these very decks. We’re guessing said chip will find a home in the new players announced by Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony, though no one has yet to come clean and make that clarification. Interestingly, the maker of one of our favorite Blu-ray players didn’t announce a 3D version, and while we’re not sure what LG is waiting for (market acceptance, perhaps?), we’d be shocked if we didn’t see one at some point this year.
RealD is a winner, again
Just like in the theater, RealD seemed to have the most traction at home. What’s different is that while the RealD glasses you’ve worn at the theater were less than $1 and of the circular polarized variety, the RealD glasses that Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba are using are active shutter glasses — only JVC is using circular polarized. There were other glasses on display though — Gunnar Optiks was showing some more stylish ones, and XpanD was showing active shutter with Bluetooth instead of IR, which is the same tactic that Vizio is using. XpanD also told us that its IR active shutter glasses would work with other 3DTVs, which makes some sense since the main 3D demo at Panasonic’s booth was using XpanD glasses, not RealDs.
What about content?
Just ask Samsung or Mitsubishi and they’ll tell you that 3DTV is nothing without content. We learned all about the 3D Blu-ray spec and that the PS3 would do 3D before CES, but during the show we were able to dig in deeper and reveal that the Blu-ray spec isn’t what it could be. Even before DirecTV had a chance to make an announcement at CES, someone let slip that the carrier would have 3D programming this year — and it brought a 3D demo (which looked great) to CES. Couple this with announcements from ESPN as well as Sony, IMAX and Discovery, and you’ve got the promise of some compelling 3D content at home very soon. ESPN has promised World Cup Soccer this year and the BCS National Championship game in 2011 with other events scattered in between, but while we expect a few IMAX movies from Sony and Discovery, so far the exact programming picture is still very cloudy. The only thing we do know is that three animated features will be out on Blu-ray starting with either Monsters vs Aliens or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs this summer, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol in December. The one title we don’t know about is Avatar, which we just have to believe will be out on 3D Blu-ray this year. We’re sure there will be even more 3D content to scope out as the bandwagon grows, and we’ve already seen streaming services get the 3D itch.
And video games?
Besides movies and sports, games may be the biggest beneficiary of 3D displays. The video game edition of Avatar is already available (and 3D-enabled) on both Sony and Microsoft’s boxes, so the PS3 version we played is just like what’s available at home right now. While the extra dimension couldn’t raise a very average adventure game to the heights of an Assassin’s Creed II, the effect did its job of bringing us further into the world and making it seem even more realistic. While a demo run of Gran Turismo 5 was slightly less impressive (varying greatly depending on camera angle), making things blow up in our faces playing Super Stardust HD clearly showed there will be compelling reasons to upgrade with the technology in the right game maker’s hands. On the PC side, NVIDIA has been pushing 3D capabilities for quite some time, and while most of our demos consisted of Blu-ray 3D showings from Cyberlink and WinDVD, we got enough gaming in to figure out that shutter glasses will soon be as common as headsets, precision mice and customized keyboards on the desks of shooter fans — if WoW ever goes 3D, there could be serious problems.
The new “upconverting?”
Even with major content providers on board, native 3D content will be scarce for some time, just like the rollout of HDTV. That’s a gap several manufacturers are looking to fill by providing technology for converting 2D to 3D. If that sounds a lot like the scaling buzz applied to DVDs and other standard-definition video, that’s because it is, as shown by Toshiba’s decision to expand its Resolution+ branding to Cell TV hardware that upscales and can convert from 2D to 3D in realtime. It showed off a demo that did an effective job separating different planes on simulated home video footage to make it 3D. Unfortunately, that didn’t make watching someone else’s vacation tapes any less boring, and popping elements out like cardboard cutouts seemed like the cheap gimmickry we were hoping to avoid. Samsung had the most effective conversion demo, plugging a standard Xbox 360 into one of its new displays and letting us play Gears of War 2 converted to 3D. While there wasn’t any extra detail to be found, it showed a subtle amount of additional depth that brought us even further into the game, especially when launching mortar shells at far off opponents. Sony announced plans to convert significant amounts of Jimi Hendrix footage to 3D for an upcoming Blu-ray release and even demoed some concert video in its CES theater — in this case the added depth did help the “you are there” feeling of a concert experience, but it still couldn’t compare with anything created natively for the new format.
While we’re sure someone will attempt to be the “Fox Widescreen” of 3D with converted footage on their broadcasts — JVC was showing off a rack mounted unit aimed at broadcasters for just this purpose — it will probably suffer the same fate and eventually go away altogether. The good news? Nothing we saw conjured up memories of the Cowboys Stadium 2D-to-3D disaster, and in some cases it could even be a very useful feature while we wait for content to catch up with displays. But just like DVD upscaling, even if it’s a high priced feature now, it will likely spread out across all displays in the future if customers enjoy it. We’ll be keeping a careful eye to see who has the best processing technology in real world situations later this year.
The glasses-free option
Ah yes, the nirvana of glasses-free 3D. While it was on display at more than one location this year, there’s still a number of factors keeping it from coming into play in our home viewing. Consistent on all three displays was a focus on CGI animations, not any kind of live video or other TV-style content. Though advances in standard HDTVs have increased the resolution behind the lenticular film that enables this technology, most of the progress displayed by Intel and Magnetic3D was on their ability to process and render images so they’ll pop out even when viewed from multiple angles. That’s useful for their intended use in POS advertisements, slot machines and the like — and it will surely impress digital signage nuts in the crowd — but it still suffers lost resolution and requires extra processing power for each viewing angle. With most viewers unwilling to assume a Sheldon Cooper-esque couch position, it’s unlikely any content or displays based around this will be breaking into the consumer space anytime soon.
By all indications, 2010 is set to be a flagship year for 3D. There should be plenty of new displays, set-top boxes, glasses and content. Many will be striving to be the first to market, while others will be happy to sit on the sidelines and watch it all develop. We see many parallels between 3D and the development of HD and that combined with the fact that we find the technology very compelling, should make it clear to you that there’s going to be more 3D coverage than you could want here on Engadget HD. So regardless of how this turns out, we want to be here to watch it flourish or perish. Now, of course we aren’t going to rename the site or anything like that — some of you might think we did. Now this doesn’t mean we’re going to let up hitting the HD news, no not at all. We’re confident we are up to the challenge of covering both very comprehensively.
LG Display Unveils World’s Thinnest LCD TV Panel Measuring 2.6mm
Breaking the 3mm barrier in large LCD TV panels
A leading innovator of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) technology, announced today that it has developed the world’s thinnest LCD TV panel measuring 2.6mm.
The development of extremely slim LCD panel was possible by applying the company’s accumulated “slimming” technologies including the use of an ultra-slim, edge-lit LED backlight system and proprietary optical film technology.
The 42-inch panel weighs less than 4 kilograms – making it ideal for wall mounted TVs. Moreover, the new product offers 120Hz refresh rate technology with full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution for clear and sharp image.
In May, LG Display broke the record by unveiling 42- and 47 inch LCD TV panels measuring 5.9mm – the world’s thinnest panels at the time. By nearly halving its record in just seven months, the company maintains its position as the technology leader in ultra-slim LCD panels.
Dr. In Jae Chung, LG Display’s CTO and Executive Vice President noted, “With the development of the world’s thinnest LED LCD TV panel that is only 2.6mm thick, LG Display has once again demonstrated its technical prowess to satisfy customer demand for high resolution and slim design products. We will continue to spur R&D activities in order to provide our customers and the market with the differentiated products that they desire.”
LG Display will showcase the product and its newest cutting-edge display technologies in a private room at the Bellagio Hotel during the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010 in Las Vegas.
Valens’ HDBaseTTM extends current digital connectivity technologies with first ever full HD multimedia content and Ethernet via a single 100m/328ft LAN cable
Valens Semiconductor, a fabless semiconductor company, announced today that it will demonstrate the first ever convergence and high quality transmission of uncompressed high-definition (HD) video, audio and Internet via a single LAN cable, creating a seamless end-to-end entertainment and networking experience in the home environment.
At the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), taking place January 8 – 11 in Las Vegas, Valens will introduce its HDBaseT™ technology in South Hall 2, Booth 27006. Valens is working towards creating HDBaseT as the new digital connectivity standard for HD multimedia distribution by overcoming the limitations of current wired and wireless technologies, while ensuring content rights for Hollywood studios and other content providers.
Valens’ VS100SK (receiver) and VS100SR (transmitter) ICs, the first to implement HDBaseT, will be commercially available during the second half of 2009. A source side implementation, VS100SR is designed for use inside Blu-ray DVD players, set-top boxes (STBs) and other HD source equipment. A sink side implementation, VS100SK is designed for use inside HDTVs, projectors and other display equipment.
With the growth of the HD market, consumers are looking for a way to connect TVs and other display equipment with entertainment devices, such as a Blu-ray DVD player, for in-home converged distribution of HD multimedia content. This demand to access and easily distribute HD content to any device at any time has caused consumer electronics manufacturers and content providers to push the limits of existing wired connectivity technologies, such as HDMI, MOCA and HomePlug, and emerging wireless technologies, including 802.11n, WHDI and WirelessHD.
While some existing technologies are limited in terms of bandwidth and cannot support uncompressed video, others are limited in terms of distance, reliability, flexibility, overall system cost and cost of installation – all pressure points for the end user. The demand for in-home converged distribution of HD multimedia content and the lack of adequate existing technologies are driving the industry towards a HD digital connectivity standard that increases distance of data transfer, expands distribution, extends the range, simplifies installations and lowers overall system cost.
Valens’ HDBaseT technology is optimized for video application and can connect all the entertainment devices at home by providing the 5PlayTM convergence of 8Gbps of uncompressed full HD digital video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power over cable and various control signals. HDBaseT overcomes the limitations of HDMI and other current technologies as the first technology to enable long-reach wired connectivity of uncompressed HD multimedia content via up to 100m/328ft low-cost single standard Cat-5e/6 cable. This enables both point-to-point connectivity and full multimedia distribution with higher reliability, longer distance and lower cost cable, while supporting all existing and future content protection schemes.
“The market for HD content continues to grow and evolve as the end user increases content consumption. But today, connectivity and distribution of video, audio and Internet in the home entertainment environment are inconsistent,” said Dror Jerushalmi, CEO, Valens Semiconductor. “HDBaseT is revolutionizing the multimedia distribution of uncompressed HD multimedia content via a single LAN cable. There is no technology on the market today that is better positioned to be the future HD digital connectivity standard than HDBaseT.”
In addition, Valens’ HDBaseT technology offers a combination of media distribution and content protection that provides studios and CE manufacturers with a high level of content security and high quality transmission of uncompressed HD video, audio and data in a home environment.
ZyXEL Communications Inc., a leading provider of secure broadband networking, Internet connectivity and routing products, today announced the ZLR-2070S, the world’s first fixed LTE (Long Term Evolution) CPE/SOHO router. The ZLR-2070S is an all-in-one, multi-service gateway that leverages compact, system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology to deliver cost-effective, non-FPGA-based LTE connectivity. ZyXEL will demonstrate the device live at CES 2010 at their suite in the Renaissance Hotel.
LTE is the next major phase in wireless communications technology and delivers blazing-fast multimedia connectivity on an all-IP platform. Consumers will experience an impressive upgrade in services and performance — on all Internet-enabled fixed and mobile devices connected via LTE. LTE also opens the floodgates for a new era of connectivity in industries ranging from consumer electronics to appliances, health care, public utilities and telematics.
Ideal for residences and SOHOs, the ZLR-2070S is a feature-rich, future-proof hardware platform optimized for multi service. This includes broadband Internet connectivity, two VoIP ports, home networking via a four-port, 11n wireless switch, a USB port (to share devices, such as printers and storage). Service providers also can use the ZLR-2070S to enable Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and other smart home automation services.
Moreover, the ZLR-2070S offers data rates with up to 50Mbps throughput, which is faster than 3G technologies like HSPA / EV-DO. Based on the router’s 4G wireless connectivity, the device is ideal for operators looking to provide service in rural or other traditionally under-served markets where new wireline deployments are cost-prohibitive. This level of portability also makes the device ideal for any scenario in which customers need high-speed, multi-user Internet access in a temporary location, such as construction sites or special events.
“ZyXEL is excited to lead the LTE revolution by bringing innovative solutions to service providers,” said Brian Feng, senior vice president, key accounts business unit for ZyXEL. “We are proud to offer service providers the ability to bring wireless high speed Internet access to millions including those in under-served markets.”