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TV makers see world in 3-D

With technological enhancements making quality 3-D at home a possibility, the consumer electronics giants hope you'll be willing to pay extra for a set, starting as early as this spring.

January 07, 2010|By David Colker and Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Toshino Yuhaku of Sony Pictures watches 3-D television with active shutter glasses at the Sony booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Toshino Yuhaku of Sony Pictures watches 3-D television with active shutter… (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Las Vegas — To sum up Wednesday at the giant Consumer Electronics Show, you need just one number and three letters: 3-D TV.

The major consumer electronics manufacturers, which each hosted carefully rehearsed dog and pony shows for thousands of journalists gathered from all over the world, did it this year with dark glasses and promises that the world would welcome 3-D into its living room.

No matter that the technology is almost entirely untried on home consumers. Except for a few cheesy experiments, television programming has been physically flat all these decades.

But with technological enhancements -- including high-definition imagery -- finally making quality 3-D at home a possibility, the consumer electronics giants hope you'll be willing to pay extra to buy a set (and the requisite glasses) starting as early as this spring.

There were other TV announcements, too, involving Internet connectivity and the wider availability of LED-backlit models.

Here's what manufacturers said they have in store for 2010.


One of the big obstacles to 3-D TV adoption is lack of something to watch with depth. Visual depth, that is.

Panasonic, in partnership with the satellite service DirecTV, sought to fix that by offering three all-3-D satellite channels to launch by June.

The channels will be made available to DirecTV's HDTV subscribers, bringing movies, TV shows and live events to homes in 3-D.

It was the first announcement by a U.S. distributor that it would provide a steady supply of 3-D. One of the first live sports events to be shown will be the Major League Baseball All-star game this summer.

To view 3-D programming at home, viewers will need specially equipped television sets. Panasonic, which has been at the forefront of bringing 3-D to living rooms, will be offering them, as well as 3-D Blu-ray players.

Of course, 3-D glasses will be needed to view the channels and the TVs.


Bucking the trend of falling TV prices, Toshiba announced a new line -- Cell TV -- with a super-fast processor now used in the Sony PS3 game console. This is the first announced use of the Cell chip in a TV.

"Toshiba missed out on HD DVD -- which got beat out by Blu-ray -- but that gave them the first shot at defining the future of TV," said obviously enthusiastic analyst Richard Doherty, head of the Envisioneering Group, after the news conference.

This future probably will be expensive, however. Toshiba did not announce prices for the sets but was not shy about saying they would come at a premium.

"We don't have to rush to the bottom," said Scott Ramirez, vice president of marketing for the company, noting that pricey LED-backlit sets were doing well.

The Cell's added power will support numerous enhancements, including a feature that will supposedly take any 2-D show and present it in 3-D when the viewer chooses.

Toshiba will be using powered, active shutter glasses that carry the highest price tag of any such specs.

Another feature of the Cell: video calls on the set, supposedly with "crystal-clear" images, even on a TV as big as 55 inches. (This feature, however, was not demonstrated at the news conference).

The Cell will also have built-in wireless networking, so sets can connect to home networks without snaking more cables into living rooms. That will eliminate the need for separate Internet-connected devices to view services such as Facebook, CinemaNow or Flickr from sofas.

But will Cell sell? Stay tuned.


The company launched its new line of 3-D televisions, Blu-ray players, glasses and home theater systems with a bit of Hollywood sizzle.

DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that the studio would release the animated film "Monsters vs. Aliens" as a 3-D Blu-ray disc, in an exclusive promotion with Samsung. The disc will be created by Technicolor.

Katzenberg said theater audiences have embraced this new way of watching films, with four of the 10 films released in 3-D ranking among the top movies at the box office.

"With 3-D, we give them the feeling of being immersed in the stories and characters," Katzenberg said.


Not to be outshone when it comes to entertainment, Sony Electronics brought country artist Taylor Swift and her band to perform on stage while her image was projected behind her in 3-D for eyeglasses-wearing journalists.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer touted a network alliance with ESPN, which he hopes will entice consumers with 85 live sporting events in 3-D, starting June 11 with the first 2010 FIFA World Cup match. Discovery Communications Inc. also plans to join with Imax Corp. and Sony to bring out its own full-time 3-D network in 2011.

"All these announcements are designed to create excitement around 3-D," Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow said as he described Sony's new 3-D lineup of Bravia TV sets and Blu-ray disc players.


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