Remember Dimenco? A four-man splinter group of former Philips employees, the company has been hard at work refining its glasses-free 3D display tech and today some of the earliest fruit of its labor is going on sale. Nissho Electronics in Japan is beginning sales of a 52-inch LCD panel that can pump out full 1080p of 3D vision without requiring any headgear from the viewer. Initially, this big lenticular display will target businesses, who’ll be among the few to be able to afford the ¥1.7 million ($20,820) asking price. Other specs include a 2,000:1 contrast ratio, 8ms response time, 700 nits of brightness, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The 3D on this TV is actually described as a unique “2D + depth” implementation, which can also be used to convert 2D images in real time. Great, now take a zero out of that price, ship it westwards, and watch the sales really take off.
Summit Semiconductor and Hansong Technologies have teamed up to offer the first full 7.1 complaint HDMI wireless audio hub to home theater fans. The device is a small HDMI audio hub that has AV receiver connectivity and high definition audio decode capability. The device is aimed at use with digital TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and more.
The device has optical and coax digital audio inputs and supports DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD audio format. It also has stereo analog inputs for devices like the Wii, iPhone, and MP3 players. The hub also has calibration features built in to optimize the sound for the room.
The hub is compatible with all Summit Wireless enabled speakers. Once set up and paired with the appropriate speakers the system can send audio wirelessly to speaker systems ranging from 2.0 to 7.1 so you don’t need to run wires all around your home.
Just about everyone wants to mount an HDTV on the wall but most don’t wants to run wires to it. No way around running at least power, but as for the rest there are a few solutions if you have the cash. One of those solutions is the Philips Wireless HDTV Link. In addition to the obvious wireless functionality, It is also a 2 way HDMI and 2 way component switch. The way it works is that you mount a small, lightweight receiver around your TV with a single HDMI cable running tethered to your HDTV. Then you put the larger transmitter with all the inputs within 75-feet of your HDTV with all your source equipment connected to it. Then with a help from the included remote you can watch any one of the four HD sources on your remote HDTV. For the most part it works exactly as advertised, but we found that when we put the transmitter in a closet in the next room things took a little longer than they should to sync up. The good news is that we had no troubles sending 1080p60 from across a room and there was no noticeable lag. The bad news is that unless all your devices work in HDMI CEC harmony, you’re still going to need some way to get the remote IR to the source equipment. Speaking of a remote, the included remote is simple enough and luckily easily replaced with your programmable one. At the retail price of $799 Philips is crazy, but considering this can be had for less than $400 from some online retailers it might be just the thing you’re looking for if you can’t run HDMI cables between our equipment.
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.
When Belkin killed its FlyWire, it also put a serious hurtin’ on the hopes of wireless HDTV ever truly taking off in the near term. Granted, the device was horrifically overpriced, but it was easily the most well-known product in the fledgling sector. Now, however, it seems that a few other players are sneaking into the limelight, with Philips recently introducing its sub-$1,000 Wireless HDTV Link and Sony pricing its DMX-WL1 for the everyman. Today, Best Buy’s own Rocketfish has introduced its WirelessHD Adapter, a two-piece set that enables a single HDMI device to be connected to an HDMI-enabled HDTV sans cabling. You simply plug your source into one box and your HDTV into another; so long as the two are within 33 feet of one another, 1080p content can be slung without wires. It’s up for order right now at $599.99, which — amazingly enough — is actually more expensive than that 30-foot Monster HDMI cable you were secretly eying.
Good news for folks who against all odds don’t have a home theater Netflix streaming option yet, and yet inexplicably own an internet-connected Sony BRAVIA TV: Netflix just went live. It just takes applying the latest software update and you’re in business. BRAVIA owners were promised the update back in July, and let us be the first to point and laugh insensitively at PS3 owners who have use a “DVD” to get Netflix working on their Cell-powered supermachines.
While the market for High-Definition TV (HDTV) has hit the mainstream, the industry has already started speculating about the commercialization of Ultra-High Definition (UHD). Market research firm, In-Stat http://www.in-stat.com, believes there will be a lengthy time period before the UHD market reaches a critical mass of 5% household penetration. However, as the initial market debuts over the next five to ten years, there will be ample opportunities for technology companies, manufacturers, service providers and media companies to experiment with business models and strategies to make UHD a strong business in the long term.
“UHD formats provide between four and sixteen times the resolution of Blu-ray or 1080p high definition as well as 22.2 multichannel three-dimensional sound,” says Michelle Abraham, In-Stat analyst. “This is a vast improvement over the currently available end user viewing experience in the home.”
As originally proposed, UHD comes in two levels of resolution: 7680 x 4320 pixels (i.e., 8K resolution), and 3840 x 2160 (i.e., 4K resolution).
Recent research by In-Stat found the following:
- The rising popularity of high resolution digital cinema will expose consumers to high resolution content. Then, early UHDTVs will be made available to provide a digital cinema high resolution viewing experience in the home. Ultimately, broadcasters will start offering UHD content to an addressable market of UHDTVs, between 2017 and 2022.
- In-Stat expects the total installed base of UHDTVs Europe to approach 5% household penetration until 2021, and increase to over 28.2% penetration by 2025.
- In Asia-Pacific, Japan will be among the early adopter countries.
Low-Cost, Extremely Energy Efficient 100-inch Diagonal Displays Fast-Tracked for 2010
October 28, 2009 – Los Gatos, CA – HDI Ltd. announces it has entered into a manufacturing agreement to mass produce their proprietary 100-inch diagonal Laser-Driven 2D/3D Switchable Dynamic Video Projection Televisions. HDI Ltd.’s 2D/3D switchable system delivers a stunningly superior 2D image, with a 50% greater resolution than today’s digital cinemas, and derives its greater-than-high definition stereoscopic 1920 x 1080p “3D” image quality from two RGB laser-illuminated Liquid Crystal on Silcon (LCOS) micro display imagers. At full 1080p HD, the HDI Ltd. screen refreshes at 360 fields per-second on each eye, the fastest refresh rate on any mass produced television or projector.
HDI Ltd. has completely eliminated the adverse effects, such as migraines, dizziness, nausea, and motion sickness, long associated with inferior and expensive shutter glasses and substandard 3D technology. HDI Ltd. delivers the most immersive, comfortable, and natural 3D viewing experience in the world with low-cost and light-weight proprietary polarized glasses. Technology journalist Richard Hart called HDI Ltd.’s picture quality, “the smoothest yet, and smoothness means no headaches,” and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, stated, “Without a doubt, the best demonstration of 3D technology I have ever seen.”
In addition, HDI Ltd. displays draw 80% less power than existing 2D plasma displays of the same size, offer a 95% reduction in manufacturing pollution, and a 100% reduction in harmful chemicals and radioactive components currently used in existing televisions. At 10-inches thick, HDI’s 100-inch diagonal display weighs 75% less than equivalent Plasma and LCD displays, and is anticipated to have a street price potentially 60% less than current 2D flatscreen Plasma and LCD displays.
HDI’s September 2009 announcement of their potential new standard for switchable 2D/3D television technology came on the same day several major manufactures announced plans to release new energy-guzzling plasma televisions with 3D capabilities via shutter glasses, all of which featured price tags as much as 100% or more than current 2D televisions.
HDI Ltd. quickly caught the interest of the consumer electronics industry and, as reported on Variety.com, top execs, engineers and S3D experts from six of the eight leading television manufactures recently crowded together into HDI Ltd.’s tiny Los Gatos lab to see their prototype 100-inch, rear-projection S3D television.
David Cohen of Variety.com reported, “HDI’s approach shows the promise of laser-driven 3D TV could be a reality surprisingly soon,” and Sean Portnoy of ZDNet said, “We could be looking at a Holy Grail of sorts for the next generation of television.”
According to co-founder Ingemar Jansson, “The first production-run of 100-inch HDI Ltd. 2D/3D switchable displays should quickly put product into a multitude of B2B and public demonstration venues.” He’s mum as to when leading American retailers will be able to put units into homes, but stresses that the simplistic and inexpensive design and manufacturing techniques required to produce HDI Ltd. televisions, “will have product in the marketplace faster than one would expect,” and adds, “either with the HDI logo or that of another leading manufacturer.”
Offering a thought on the fact that California appears poised to be the first state to ban power-guzzling big-screen TVs, Jansson states, “In light of the energy efficient products emerging from companies such as Apple, the lobbying efforts of the Consumer Electronics Association strikes me as almost criminal in promoting antiquated technologies that the ‘Grid,’ and the planet, simply cannot sustain.”
Now wait one second before you start on the whole “I’m not wearing any stupid looking glasses,” because no matter what you say, there are more people paying extra to go 3D movies than ever and the reason is simple; it’s because this isn’t like the crappy 3D you saw during the Super Bowl last year — or that our parents grew up with. No, the 3D that Sony, Panasonic, and others are promising next year is like nothing you’ve seen. We’ve come a long way since the old anaglyph red and blue glasses that come in cereal boxes, so before you knock the new technology before it’s even out, click through and read about the technologies that might bring us a real 3D revolution.
We have two eyes for a reason and while we’ve enjoyed stereo sound since-like-forever, stereoscopic images haven’t quite arrived. At its core, 3D is as simple as using two cameras to capture the data that our eyes would, but it’s the display part that’s proven tricky. Ultimately, the technology has to find a way to present each eye with a different variation of an image, at that point our eyes and brain do the rest.
Circular polarized or active LCD shutter glasses
The one thing that hasn’t changed about 3D is the need for glasses — if you’re holding out for 3D on a big screen without glasses, you’re going to let this generation of 3D pass you by. The technology in the glasses varies by a lot and the main two types these days are circular polarized and active LCD shutter. Both serve the same purpose, to ensure each eye sees a different image, but in much different ways.
LCD shutter glasses
So in comes the LCD shutter glasses — the technology itself has actually been around for some time, in fact there were eight Sega Master Systems games that worked with shutter glasses dating back to the 80’s. But the technology was limited by the display technology of that era which could only show 480i at 30 frames per second, which worked out to about 15 FPS per eye in 3D — so yeah, the flickering could make you sick.
It’s not all good though, besides the cost of the glasses and the added emitter in the TV, some say that there is added flickering, and with the shutters closing in front of your eyes, the image is dimmed a bit. Both Sony and Panasonic claim these are no longer issues in thanks to the super fast refresh rates and brightness available on the latest HDTVs.
Yes, you read that right, all four of these tech giants are pushing the same home 3D display technology. While Samsung and Mitsubishi have been demoing its DLP HDTVs with shutter glasses for-like-ever, both Sony and Panasonic have been showing LCD and Plasma (respectively) HDTVs that can display 3D HD at CES, CEDIA and other shows. In fact Sony and Panasonic promise to release the first consumer 3D capable displays next year. That last part is an important one, so listen up: both will offer HDTVs next year that will work just like any other HDTV today, but will also work with 3D. So not only are the HDTVs going to be fully backwards compatible, but supposedly the new sets won’t cost much more than a normal HDTV. In fact Panasonic believes that in the next few years most of its HDTVs will be 3D ready.
We know what you’re thinking, you just bought a new HDTV and you want to know why it can’t handle 3D. Even if it was possible to add an IR emitter to keep the shutter glasses in sync, the experience at 30 FPS per eye wouldn’t be as enjoyable. And just like when the first 1080p HDTVs hit the shelves without the ability to actually accept 1080p input, the current crop of 120hz HDTVs can’t actually display 120 frames per second — only show each frame of a 60 fps signal, twice.
Of course, 3D-capable displays don’t do much without 3D content, and the good news is that most of the infrastructure needed for 3D in the home is already here thanks to HD. With the new 1.4 spec, HDMI has been updated to accomdate 3D and the first source is almost guaranteed to be Blu-ray. In fact as we speak the BDA is working on standardizing the storage of 3D movies on a Blu-ray Disc. It actually isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds, because what is essentially needed is to up the spec from 1080p at 30 FPS to 1080p at 120 FPS. In fact a 50GB Blu-ray Disc has more than ample capacity to handle a 3D HD movie thanks to the wonders of video compression where only the difference of each frame is stored. So 3D movies only require about 50 percent more space, and the one thing about the new 3D Blu-ray standard that has been determined, is that every 3D Blu-ray Disc will include a 2D version of the movie.
But not everyone can see 3D
When we say that 3D isn’t for everyone, we mean it. In fact it is estimated that 4 percent of us are actually physically incapable of seeing 3D no matter what the display technology. And even worse, according to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, “Research has shown that up to 56 percent of those 18 to 38 years of age have one or more problems with binocular vision and therefore could have difficulty seeing 3D.” So if you are one of these affected, it might be time to see an opthamologist and get screened for amblyopia. And if you happen to be blind in one eye you can still watch 3D, but it’ll just look normal to you — assuming of course you have the glasses on.
Where we go from here
One thing we weren’t able to learn in our quest for 3D knowledge was how compatible these different technologies are. Essentially we assume that the functional compatibility between the two main 3D display technologies described above are like the differences between LCD and Plasma — in other words, they both connect to the same HD set-top-box and Blu-ray player — but until the BDA announces the final details of the 3D specification there isn’t really any way to know for sure. But it seems that if Blu-ray was compatible with both circular polarized and LCD shutter glasses, then certainly whatever broadcast standard or game console announced down the road would also work with both.
Like it or not, 3D is coming and just like HD before it, there will be plenty of technology pundits predicting its demise. The problem right now is very few have had the chance to check out the technology and if you have been lucky enough to see it, it is hard to convey how cool it is to others. On top of this, 3D has a long road ahead because most people think they have seen it because they’ve tried the anaglyph glasses during a Super Bowl Commercial. The other big hurdle is the whole stupid looking glasses argument — which doesn’t make that much sense since you’ll be wearing them in the privacy of your own home. Now we know that the same technology lovers who read Engadget would never hate on any new technology without experiencing it first hand, but tell your friends and family that something new is coming, and no it isn’t like anything else they’ve seen.