CES in brief: The year of 3D

By Xeni Jardin

3d.jpg

Ten years ago, much of the excitement at CES and in Hollywood involved the possibilities of digital cinema and television. This week in Vegas, it's all about 3D.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer described it as "the next great consumer experience," and was joined on stage by previously Kanye-bashed pop star Taylor Swift, whose performance was then streamed live in 3D.

Earlier this week, Sony announced a joint venture with Discovery Communications and IMAX to create a new 24-hour 3D channel, to launch next year. ESPN promises to use Sony pro HD cameras to capture sporting events for a new 3D sports channel which will launch in June, coinciding with the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Sony, Samsung, LG and Toshiba all unveiled 3D HDTVs, and related 3D offerings. But Panasonic's VT25 flat-screen HDTVs will actually include the funny glasses.

The Panasonic press conference Wednesday opened with a live broadcast from Osaka, Japan, of company president Fumio Ohtsubo,using an HD visual communications system.

"How do I look?," his high-def streamed likeness asked the audience. He then introduced Panasonic's new $21,000 HD 3D pro camcorder: two lenses and a camera head integrated into one body. More on the Panasonic 3D hub.

Related reading today: Gizmodo's 3D Primer, a NYT item on 3D television, and Engadget digs into the Panasonic 3D offerings.

Previously: CES in brief: Tablets galore

Published 9:15 am Thu, Jan 7, 2010

About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

52 Responses to “CES in brief: The year of 3D”

  1. sum.zero says:

    3d, the next hd. how many channels of fully hd content are available today?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are you really going to relax on the couch in Roy Orbison glasses? Is Survivor going to be better in 3D? Will you cook/clean/other in the big black glasses with the TV on in the background?

    3D at home with glasses is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. And I have heard (and said) a LOT of stupid things.

    Nix the glasses – and maybe – if it’s cheap.

  3. americanwhale says:

    I hope Smell-O-Vision is next.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh, yah, shure, it’s a great consumer experience— except for this consumer. 3D stuff doesn’t work for me, neither the blue/red nor the polarized. I think it’s an aspect of my funky astigmatisim, but even over my vision correction glasses, the 3D glasses just don’t work.

  5. the_pants says:

    TV is often a social event (especially sports). Not sure its going to be the same if everyone is walking around with big glasses on (does everyone have to bring their own? what if my 3D setup is a different tech than that of my friends?). And of course, beware being on the bleeding edge, its usually money that bleeds out.

  6. BookGuy says:

    I don’t have stereoscopic vision because I’m blind in one eye. Can I sue somebody for discrimination for this? Maybe somebody can hook me up with Demi’s lawyers.

    • OneAmp says:

      I was wondering the same thing BookGuy. A friend of mine who studies vision systems told me that many people (I think the figure was roughly 10%) have difficulty with 3D vision. I myself have difficulty perceiving the 3D effect that relies on polarized lenses. For me, I see a blurry mess and get a headache after 15 minutes. I’ve yet to go see Avatar for this reason.

  7. scifijazznik says:

    Just imagine the possibilities:

    COPS in 3D — It’s almost like being in the trailer!

    3-Dancing with the Stars — You can almost taste Tom Delay’s hair putty!

    The Real 3-DDD Housewives of O.C./D.C. — The fake boobage practically crowds you out of your home theater!

  8. Xander Crews says:

    Sorry, but Avatar didn’t sell me on 3-D. The Flick wasn’t bad, but it didn’t enhance my ‘immersion’ like everyone wants to pretend it did.

    This hype is making me sick.

    Everyone had to buy an HDTV for like the last 5 years and now they have to sell out another $2K-$3K+ for 3D? And wear glasses? And this won’t alienate other people in a crowded room or get really annoying to wear on top of everything else?

    I’ll pass, and I hope the rest of the world will too, until they make holographs. Unless they somehow dramatically increase the experience and take away the glasses.

  9. yupgiboy says:

    Could we PLEASE get past the use of condescending adjectives when explaining, once again, that, yes, you will need glasses to see 3D? I’m so tired of it: “Funny Glasses”, Dorky Glasses”, “Silly Glasses”. It’s simple. a double image needs a decoder for each image to hit each eye properly.

    If you’re watching a game or a movie, you should actually be watching it and not noticing how everyone else in the room looks. 3D is an immersive experience, not a social event.

    • Brainspore says:

      3D is an immersive experience, not a social event.

      TV and movies are often social events for most people. If the designers of these gadgets don’t take that into account when creating their devices then they will fail in the marketplace.

    • the_pants says:

      @yupgiboy “If you’re watching a game or a movie, you should actually be watching it and not noticing how everyone else in the room looks. 3D is an immersive experience, not a social event.”

      I bet you’re a blast when you have friends over to watch a game. So rules are –

      Everyone file in, sit down, no talking, watch the game, file out.
      Everyone must buy glasses compatible with my 3D system.
      Did I mention sit down, no talking, and watch the game?

      You can replace the word “game” with “movie”, “Dr. Who”, or “porn” when appropriate.

  10. scifijazznik says:

    On a serious note, if they want to sell millions of 3-D sets, the answer is very, very simple: Playboy Channel in 3-D.

    Done and done. Can I collect my virtual dollars now?

  11. BdgBill says:

    I’m a gadget addict but I couldn’t care less about 3D anything. I saw “UP” and “Avatar” and didn’t think the occasional 3d effects added much to the experience or made it worth wearing the dorky glasses (sorry #7).

    I have enough trouble keeping track of my remotes, never mind hunting through the sofa cushions to locate my “TV glasses”.

  12. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I watched Avatar in 3d. I was warned about the migraine-inducing sequences and so kept my eyes shut for the flashing lights. I also consciously relaxed to prevent tension headache resulting from eyestrain as my brain fruitlessly tweaked my eye muscles in an attempt to compensate.

    After half an hour, I adjusted, and saw the movie as an alternate reality. So… just like a regular movie, then, only with more conscious effort involved to prevent various types of headaches.

    I’m told you get used to it, so that you don’t consciously need to work to get the normal movie experience. But to me, it just seemed like a lot of effort for no big advantage. Where’s the ROI?

  13. philipb says:

    I’m not sure Sony or ESPN are going to convince enough people to ditch their almost new flats for a 3-D model. As for the the broadcast industry, still reeling from HD and digital TV (with ad revenues in the toilet), I can’t see them ready to invest in new equipment & systems.

    I call fad on this one.

  14. mgfarrelly says:

    300 channels, in 3-D, and nothing on.

    Really, when are they just going to start hooking tubes up to the back of our skulls and rolling out the nutrient baths for us to float in?

    • Xander Crews says:

      Only after everyone owns multiple HDTV, 3DTV’s, and maybe a few more generations of gadgets pushed out to make the previous seem obsolete, when they really aren’t.

      The future world we see in media like Ghost in the Shell can’t get here soon enough.

  15. warreno says:

    I fully expect 3D television to be every bit as successful as videophones.

  16. erzatsen says:

    that article image obviously came from a real stereogram card, but it looks as if the anaglyphing has been done to just the right image, and an HDTV pasted on top is the only part that’s out of plane. would have been easy to do that right.

    fake 3D is migraine inducing because we perceive 3D by both converging our eyes AND distance focusing with the lens inside the eye. anaglyph, polarizing and eye-crossing all address the converging aspect of 3D, but nothing works with the focus distance adjustment. so our brains are trying to process 2 sets of signals coming from the eyes – the converging signal that there is depth, and the inner focus signal that indicates the image is flat. conflicting signals = migraine. cameron/sony/samsung/etc are not going to be able to get this past a brain-addling novelty.

    that said, i love to make 3D.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ersatzen/4132170598/

    also, on the subject of “silly glasses” can we get rid of that highlight post from nov 24 about the fellow who married a vid-girl?

    (sorry if this is a double-post. there were some irregularities when i hit the submit button)

  17. Anonymous says:

    It’s all about 3D because Hollywood and Televsion makers desperatly need something new to sell. The business models for both are going flat. These capitalists need the masses buying new things all the time. Ever wonder why Crest has 20 different types of toothpaste?

    Hollywood is trying to substitute genuine thought provoking content for shiny sparkly things that don’t mean a thing. I’ve asked people about Avatar recently and most comments were all about how cool it was, etc. Hardly ANYTHING about the story or plot. No thoughts. No discussions. No ideas.

    TV makers are cranking out the next best thing a fast as they can. They are scared s’less that we will stop buying TV’s and will stop at nothing to make you the consumer believe that you can’t live without 3D vision in your bathroom, tool shed or smart phone.

    I am no Luddite. I like eye candy. But more importantly I like a good story. If the 3d is just a crowd drawing gimmick and doesn’t contribute, enhance, or justify itself then I want nothing to do with it.

    As the old stereograph shows the idea has been around for a LONG LONG LONG time.

  18. gruben says:

    When will there actually be a movie that fundamentally depends on 3D? Something where if you watch it in 2D, you are absolutely not getting the same experience?

    This 3D stuff is such a gimmick for 99.9% of the content it is used on. I’d rather watch an artfully shot film without it any day.

    • scifijazznik says:

      You never saw Jaws 3, did you?

    • Brainspore says:

      When will there actually be a movie that fundamentally depends on 3D? Something where if you watch it in 2D, you are absolutely not getting the same experience?

      I can’t think of any movies that absolutely depend on stereo sound either but it makes for a more immersive overall experience.

  19. telaquapacky says:

    I saw Avatar in IMAX 3D. Having good, 20/20 binocular vision, I enjoyed the effect and did not care if I had to wear funky glasses, or exploding underwear or whatever (you know they make the glasses ugly and unfoldable on purpose so you won’t pocket them). But I knew that there are many out there who can’t experience 3D- in which case, you have to make an effort to see it in 2D- because the picture is double and unviewable without the glasses. If you are 3D-challenged, and you want to see a movie offerred in 3D with friends who aren’t and who want to see in in 3D, You may find that they won’t be willing to sacrifice their jollies just to accommodate you, and you’d better bow out and see the movie in 2D later, by yourself or with another 3D-challenged person, because without the glasses, it’s arful.

    By the way, I’m colorblind. All of you 3D-challenged people who feel so discriminated against and put-upon by society, I feel your pain.

    • oasisob1 says:

      Actualy we did pocket our 3D glasses from the theater, then took them home and blinged them out with gold paint, silver paint, glitter, and rhinestones.

      They rock. Avatar was worth watching in our super 3D glasses.

  20. GuabaMan says:

    What i would really like are hollodecks with real 3D (as in the image changes when you move or focus your eye to another part).

  21. jimkirk says:

    I’m another person who is blind in one eye, so I don’t see the 3D. On the other hand, ALL movies look like real life to me. .-)

    That said, I’ve always been fascinated with 3D, and have various professional quality 3D glasses with good frames, so I was at least able to wear comfortable glasses to watch the right-eye view of Avatar.

    In a conversation after watching it in an Imax theater with “butt-kicker” seats, someone said that they could have done without that particular special effect and thought that the 3D actually made it less immersive, “hey look, I’m in 3D!”

    I certainly did without seeing it in 3D, and opined that we really don’t need surround sound either. Or stereo for that matter. In fact some of the best movies ever made had monophonic sound tracks (or just a piano playing in the background) and weren’t even in color. What they did have was an excellent story, quality direction, cinematography, good acting….

    Color, surround sound, even 3D aren’t bad, per se, but too often they are used to hide a mediocre movie behind special effects. Avatar was certainly a lovely movie, and it was amazing what the technology can do these days, but I found the story itself quite predictable.

    I’ve also heard that one of the big reasons why Hollywood wants to go 3D is to foil cammers. It would be pretty hard to replicate the 3D effect, but based on the bits of cammed movies I’ve seen, those folks aren’t too interested in quality anyway.

    Then again, my favorite computer games ever were old Infocomm text adventures.

  22. spiderking says:

    Tragically, my amblyopia prevents me from enjoying this cutting-edge technology. I will never know the joys of fully experiencing Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Stewardesses. (RIP, John Candy.)

  23. MistaPutz says:

    I don’t buy 3d at the cinema. I think its a bit of a gimmick.

  24. Anonymous says:

    3D TV which Will Not Require glasses will be available soon, it may not be affordable right away but it’s the kind of 3D that will be in the pipeline for a few years from now

    HDTV is the new standard, 3D tv channels won’t be very common for a while because you need something like 16 cameras per angle for live 3D TV. Few channels will be investing in it right away, but films shot in 3D will be viewable and eventually 3D television will replace HDTV in a decade or 2. Assuming hologram technology hasn’t been made affordable enough for home installations

  25. lenlayton says:

    Another major issue with 3D movies is that because the cameras (or software) exaggerates the intra-ocular distance (i.e. the lenses are further apart than the typical pair of eyes) it has the effect of “scaling you up” so that everything really looks small. This “dolls house” effect is expecially pronounced on TV sets or any screen smaller than 80 inches… (sorry if I’ve just destroyed 3D for anyone, but next time you see a 3D image on a small screen try and imagine what the absolute scale of it is…)

    And for the 3D-challenged people, even those with only one eye working, you can actually perceive depth and 3D optically in the real world because of head movements. In fact head movements give as much depth information as binocular vision does, all part of the two-way street of perception.

    For a great demo of headtracking VR displays, search for “johnny lee headtracking” on YouTube.

  26. Anonymous says:

    There are a few technologies that enable people to watch 3D w/o the dork-bot glasses (which work fine for me).

    Check out:
    http://www.cubicvue.com
    http://www.Holografika.com
    http://www.seereal.com
    http://www.spatialview.com
    http://www.tridelity.de

  27. Anonymous says:

    i cant wait, i love the idea of retina colour burn-in, oh to see the world in technicolor gonna be wild :D

  28. Anonymous says:

    There was a ton of 3d crap last year too. Until it looks good enough WITHOUT giving me a headache, I’m not interested.

  29. Daedalus says:

    I am with the vast majority of posters in thinking that this is gimmicky. I think the same thing about HD. Yes, with certain big visual experiences, 3D or HD will change the experience, but it’s a luxury experience, not a core experience. Seeing something like Avatar in HD might be cool, and totally worth it, but seeing it in Regular D is fine, and seeing, say, the Daily Show, or the Simpsons, in HD is just fabulously dumb (visual beauty is not the reason people watch these shows). The same is true of 3D. In fact, it’s MORE true for 3D, since 3D is at least twice as gimmicky as HD. 3D is alien to the way that people create movies and TV, so it can’t begin to be embraced by creators for a generation or two, and until it is, it will be stuck to little tricks and moments, rather than truly unique experiences.

    I totally believe that “3D is the new HD” is the mantra here. I wouldn’t be surprised if HD kind of underperformed — the industry wants it to be the new standard, but the public is very slow to accept it (especially in a depression). 3D is another way of upping the price for something without adding a whole lot of value, while providing for a host of new control options (You can torrent 3DTV, but computer monitors aren’t 3D!…etc…).

    It is time for a media revolt.

  30. amuderick says:

    3D is TRICKY! There are so many more variables at play than a 2D image. And, as noted by all the commenters above, the various systems used all break-down (non-gracefully) for a certain significant section of the population with a variety of eye problems.

    Also, there are an entirely new set of cinematographic considerations which must be adhered to…it is very difficult to create a great 3D movie that also works in 2D (and vice versa). The reason you see it more in computer animation is because it is much much easier to ‘reshoot’ in 3D if everything is computer generated.

    Recording sports programs in 3D isn’t as simple as it seems. If you are using lenses with a tighter field of view than the human eye, you need to start tweaking intraocular distances and it goes downhill from there. Very hard to do well in a live event. Again, there are so many variables.

    I take Medium Format 3D transparencies with a Sputnik camera and they are AMAZING. More lifelike than anything photo reproduction you’ve probably ever seen. But, they are limited to an oversized Viewmaster-type device because of optics and the human eye. And, they are tricky to do well.

    There is no free lunch…until you start beaming these images directly into the human brain, it will remain a novelty. It may become more popular, but it won’t take over.

    This fad has come and gone for 150 years.

  31. Art says:

    As so many have stated, it’s absurd to need glasses to view it.

    The marketing professionals figure that since there were enough people purchasing ridiculously useless,dumb “Apps” for their i-phones, they’ll be willing to purchase anything.

    Truly a gimmick.

  32. SkullHyphy says:

    3d tv doesn’t sound that interesting, but I do have a gts 250 video card that supports nvidia’s 3d tech for gaming. I just don’t have a 120Hz monitor to work w/ it. Someday, I plan to because I think 3d gaming will be better than the current system of playing games that are supposed to be 3d environments, but lack real depth perception.

  33. Anonymous says:

    You don’t need glasses to do 3D.. I dont understand why these guys don’t get that, unless of course they’re all trying to sell proprietary systems worth lots of $$ whenever something gets established as “a standard”.

    Like SkullHyphy sez though, you DO need 120Hz TV to pull it off w/o glasses, but its not difficult to do.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Count me in with the 3D doubters. This is the same industry that said we’d all have Blu-Ray 4 years ago.

  35. Anonymous says:

    help me, Obi-Wan–you’re my only hope…

  36. benher says:

    When I fall down on my couch at the end of the day the last thing I want is another pair of cumbersome glasses on top of my cumbersome glasses under which I’ve been straining all day.

    Plus… didn’t we have this tech in like 1950?

  37. lewis stoole says:

    compared to the in-your-face experience found in 3-d provided by a movie screen, i have to say that a 42″ plasma provides depth but no “eye popping” visuals as in “friday the 13th in 3-d”. too boot, try typing on the laptop while casually viewing a 3-d movie on the little big screen–very difficult. i give it a poo poo out of 5 on the rating scale of awesomeness.

  38. Anonymous says:

    3D is a gimmick….. for now. Mostly because the screens are not big enough, you need to be unable to see the edges of the screen in your perifieral. Holograms or vr will address that. Anyone who believes HD is a gimmick is missing out. Come watch a bluray movie or Sports on my 50″ 1080p plasma and then tell me what you think. I would prefer to watch everything at home in 1080p with dts surround sound, it’s amazing. Even Casablanca was better.
    Stop whining and watch, you might enjoy it.
    Avatar was visually breathtaking. So much so that you forget that it was ENTIRELY CG! I think this is why people are not so impressed, they lose sight of that fact which ultimately means they did what they were trying to do. To me it felt real, as if the other planet really existed and was filmed. I’m sure this was at least in part to the 3d technology.

  39. sluggo says:

    Watching Avatar in 3D at the Imax was the coolest movie experience I’ve had since I went to the original dome-shaped Imax theater @ the MN Science Museum.

    Avatar may not have been the best movie/story etc, but at least it wasn’t Die Hard 4 or a remake of a remake of a remake. That said, I liked the story, the visuals, and the gratuitous blowing shit up.

    Is Boing Boing so full of jaded tech-folk that the biggest issue you have with this is looking stupid in your Hunter S. Thomson glasses? (The second being that Cameron didn’t consult with you before filming)

    Ugh. Relax and be entertained, for Pete’s sake.

    • Anonymous says:

      was this really a “the best experience since” kinda movie for you? tech stuff aside, the story has been done before and the movie needed some serious editing and some new dialogue. Frankly this wasn’t even the best action movie of the year. I would put Star trek above this. If you really want to see a quality sci-fi storyline put into a great action packed film, go rent District 9, hands down better film then Avatar.

  40. Phil Botana says:

    At the end of the day, the reason studios, theater chains and hardware suppliers are embracing 3D and will eventually pioneer personal hologram technology is self preservation. They know that the internet will soon make “free as a business model” the norm. If not free, then close enough to it.

    Unlike television and the artificial scarcity that is created at the core of the business model, the internet and digital technology open up the online world to all different types of content created by all different types of producers for all different types of reasons.

    Add to this the fact that the advertising pie online is now split millions of ways – as opposed to by few large media companies and their partners on TV – and one can see why 3D is getting the hype that it is.

    The barrier to entry for new era media producers is, as always, money. No-one outside big media could make Avatar and until pro-sumer 3D is cheap enough for your neighbor to make a 3D film using money earned selling on e-Bay then the studios will pick up the slack.

    And, quite frankly, thank goodness they are. There is now genuine enthusiasm for box office driven films and the experience of going to a film in a theater has improved. This is also good because it defocuses the powers that be from fighting the inevitable battles online and in fact speeds up the future of the internet.

    Next stop holograms!

  41. Hybridan says:

    While I found Avatar visually stunning and fun, I have to admit I just don’t see something that has regularly failed to “catch on” with the general entertainment seeking public for at least 100 years as having any better chance now with what amounts to the same basic tech. (I know there are differences, but I personally don’t feel they are significant.)

    I do believe however, that and earlier commenter was correct, and regardless of how you feel about the product itself, if the Pornographic industry embraced this “gimmick” you would probably see a much broader uptake within mainstream presentation in the home.

  42. djvtec says:

    I just want to know how long it will be until it is affordable and available everyone- judging on how long it took HD, way too long.

    http://www.cellitused.com
    recycle your used cell phones and ipods, help the environment!

  43. Anonymous says:

    I dont know about %’s but this guy here is blind in one eye, it doesn’t matter if its polarized or red/blue. the way most of these 3d systems work is by manipulating the vision from both eyes, therefore anyone with one eye, or just enough of a difference in vision in two eyes will have trouble, or not be able to see the 3d at all. The real reason they are producing these movies and such in 3d is because you can’t pirate the movie as easily. they have figured a way to get more money back in their pockets, they don’t care if x% can’t enjoy it.

  44. Anonymous says:

    So after reading all these posts I’m no further forward.
    Can anyone please tell me if it is possible for me to enjoy the experience of a 3D movie when I only have the use of one eye?

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