It’s chicken-and-egg time again. Right now the question is playing out in 3D television. There’s no content because there’s no TVs; there’s no TVs because there’s no content. Someone has to go first, before the others will follow. Panasonic has decided to be one of those first-goers, announcing it will soon start shipping its first 3D plasma HDTVs.
The VIERA VT2 series was introduced at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. The series is expected to contain four sets ranging from 50-inches to 65-inches. The two available now are the 50-inch TH-P50VT2 and the 54-inch TH-P54VT2. Each has 1080p resolution, and a contrast ratio of 5 million to one. Both digital and analog tuners are built-in, as is a 20W 2.1-channel speaker system. Each set has four HDMI ports, a VGA output, a D4 (component) output, and an Ethernet port. They also feature Panasonic’s VIERA CAST IPTV functionality and are THX certified.
The 3D effect is realized through the use of active shutter glasses, which are included with the set. (No word on how many pairs with each set, or whether other pairs will be available as an option.)
The new sets are due for release in April in Japan. No mention of a release date for the United States. And they won’t come cheap: the 54-inch model is priced about $6,000 (¥530,000), and the 50-inch model about $4,900 (¥430,000).
Whether or not you're looking forward to the 3D mania that began during CES, one thing you probably won't have to worry about is a format war. Most companies seem to be on board with the idea of active shutter glasses, and there doesn't appear to be much bickering between cable, satellite, and Blu-ray. And helping to bring it all together, the HDMI Licensing group has made the 3D portion of the HDMI Specification Version 1.4 available for public download.
"The HDMI Consortium recognizes the importance of standardized 3D formats for movies, gaming and broadcast content and the need for non-adopter companies and organizations to have access to that portion of the HDMI Specification," says Steve Venuti, president of HDMI Licensing, LLC. "As the mainstream adoption of 3D is gaining momentum and content providers define and expand their 3D roadmaps, HDMI is ready to support this major market development."
The group says the HDMI Consortium will release a 1.4a version of the HDMI Specification very soon, and this will include updates to the 3D portion of the spec.
Lame name aside, Acer's first foray into 3D-capable monitors serves up 1,920x1,080 pixels along with a 120Hz refresh rate. But it's the 3D that's of most interest, and to help give images an extra dimension, you'll need to don a pair of Nvidia's 3D Vision active-shutter glasses.
"As 3D content becomes more widely available in popular games and videos, users desire computing products that can take advantage of these new capabilities," said Acer America's senior product marketing manager Irene Chan. "We are excited to offer Acer's first monitor to support 3D technology."
Other specs include an 80,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio; 300cd/m2 of brightness; a 2ms response time; over 72 percent of the NTSC color gamut; and HDMI, DVI, and VGA inputs.
Acer plans to start shipping the GD235HZ this month for $400. Tack on another $200 for Nvidia's 3D Vision Kit.
Don't count Nintendo president Satoru Iwata among the Apple faithful ready to snatch up an iPad as soon as it becomes available. Judging by the majority of reader comments in our news coverage earlier this week, Iwata's as unimpressed with the tablet as the rest of you.
"It was a bigger iPod touch," Iwata said. "There were no surprises for me."
Iwata, who one could argue knows a thing or two about tech trends, is equally dispassionate about the concept of 3D gaming, so it's probably safe to say you won't be seeing Super Mario jump out of your TV set anytime soon.
"I have doubts whether people will be wearing glasses to play games at home. How is that going to look to other people?," Iwata said at a Tokyo hotel.
Probably no sillier than Alec Baldwin waving around a Wii remote in this SNL sketch.
Speaking of motion controls, Iwata put to rest speculation in the Japanese media by denying rumors Nintendo is working on a DS-equipped motion sensor similar to the one used with the Wii, while adding that the company is not working on a Wii upgrade for high-definition television sets.
Consumer electronics used to be simple. TV sizes would increase every few years, and image quality underwent slight improvements. Every decade or so, you’d have a new technology emerge that offered genuine improvements. VCRs emerged in the 1970s, CDs in the late 70s, DVDs in the 1990s. People had time to absorb the new technologies over years, and prices would trend downward in a predictable and steady way.
Contrast that with how the PC emerged. From the beginning, the PC industry constantly came up with new ideas and innovations. Over three decades, we witnessed huge discontinuities in the industry, driving two year upgrade cycles. From the original Commodores and Ataris, through Apple and CP/M and into the IBM PC era, the pace of change accelerated, driven by Moore’s law. Faster processor, GUIs, the Internet, audio, 3D graphics and a host of new innovations drove a rapid, seemingly nonstop upgrade cycle.
Having just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show, I’m convinced that the consumer electronics industry has taken to heart the constant upgrade cycle that’s driven the PC business – to the detriment of customers.
One of the oft-repeated complaints about 3D video technology is the requirement that people wear glasses. While Gunnar Optiks isn’t out to change that, they would like to offer you the opportunity to look good while viewing your 3D content. Gunnar’s new line of 3D glasses will include versions for all major 3D technologies, but will have an eye toward style. Let’s face it, isn’t that really what it’s all about?
The company plans to use its i-AMP lens technology to produce a higher quality set of specs. Most 3D glasses use flat plastic lenses, but the i-AMP lenses will be curved like normal lenses. Gunnar president Rob Arnes explained, “Currently most eyewear used in 3D systems is either disposable or of low-quality construction. With our expertise in optics and our commitment to the digital world, we see the opportunity as a natural fit.”
Gunnar Optiks makes the claim that the glasses help reduce eye strain, and make for a better image. Some agree with that assessment, but it’s far from a consensus. If you’re interested, the 3D shades should be out in Q2 and priced from $89 to $149.
The barrage of new product announcements that inevitably precede CES is now underway, and the latest comes from A/V equipment manufacturer Sherwood. Actually, two product announcements: the RD-7505N A/V receiver, and the iNet-2.0 media tabletop.
Starting with the former, the RD-7505N is touted as being "one of the first to accommodate the new HDMI 1.4 3D standard," coming equipped with three inputs with repeater and a single HDMI output. The 7.1 receiver cranks out 110W per channel and decodes both Dolby TruHD and DTS HD. It's also fully UPNP and DLNA compliant. And as a result of Sherwood's partnership with Verismo Networks, the receiver supports broadband access with direct access (through Verismo's VuNow module) to Hulu, YouTube, Internet radio including SHOUTcast, movie downloads from CinemaNow, streaming video, and more.
Moving on to the tabletop, the iNet 2.0 digital media player combines an Internet radio, iPod/iPhone dock, and an 8-inch digital photo frame into a single unit.
"The iNet 2.0 is a very cool high-tech device. With its large display and alarm function, it's the ultimate connected alarm clock," said Jeffrey Hipps, Sherwood's Sr. VP for Marketing and Product Development. "Whether you're listening to streaming music or playback from your iPod of phone, it's the perfect desktop companion, and it's great for starting and ending your day with music."
The iNet supports both wired and wireless Internet connections.
Both products will ship in May 2010, with the RD-7505N priced at $500 and the iNet 2.0 carrying an MSRP of $300.
We always take rumors with a large grain of salt, but as far as pre-release speculation goes, news and rumor site Fudzilla has a knack for being right on the money. And if their latest claim turns out to be true, DirecTV will announce the world's first satellite 3D-HD channel next month during CES.
What isn't known is when the channel will actually go online, though it's likely to coincide with the next DirecTV satellite the company plans to launch into space early next year. If all goes to plan, that satellite will be online and operational by March 2010.
That means new 3D hardware if the fad is to take off, which would be a tough pill to swallow for anyone who just plunked down a wad a cash for a flat-screen LCD TV. But if it's any consolation, Fudzilla says it's been hearing chatter that most of DirecTV's recent HD and HD DVR receivers will support the 3D-HD standard with a simple firmware update.
Are you hoping this whole 3D TV thing will just blow over? Well, if the newest rumor turns out to be true, that’s looking less likely. According to everyone’s favorite, the “unnamed source”, DirecTV will be making an announcement at CES indicating their intention to begin broadcasting 3D high definition content as early as March of 2010.
The rumor also says that the 3D content will require only a firmware update on existing set-top boxes to access the 3D content. Still in question is what sort of goofy-looking glasses people would need to wear. The 3D channel will reportedly offer an assortment of sports, movies, and TV series. All content should meet the recently agreed upon 3D specifications. The 3D video will require customers to buy one of the new 3D capable HDTVs expected to debut at CES, and new HDMI 1.4 specification cables.
Some German movie goers were a little disappointed yesterday when faulty DRM caused major issues in their advanced screening of Avatar in 3D. The special 3D version was delivered to a number of cinemas in Germany, but some of them were unable to decode the files. The overtly draconian system relies on multiple certificates and time-sensitive keys from online servers to decode 150GB of 3D information. It would seem that it’s that 3rd dimension they really want to protect, the other two not so much.
The employees tried for several hours to get the system to work, but they eventually gave up and showed the 2D version instead. When asked about the incident Oliver Fock, general manager of CineStar Group said, “We regret the failures and the associated discomfort, but we are confident that we will be able to play the premiere both in 2D and in 3D.” It does appear that the system has been worked out and the house of cards that is the 3D DRM scheme is currently functioning in the cinemas.