3D more than 20/20 vision

By Julian Clover

What is it about 3D that has got the broadcast community talking before current technologies have even bedded in, asks Julian Clover?

Already parallels are beginning to emerge between 3DTV and the last next big thing, high definition. We have a variety of formats, a swathe of organisations seeking to set the standards, and a manufacturing community all hoping to convince us it is about time we replaced the ten-year old television set.

The lack of broadcast content has not stopped TV manufacturers from launching Full HD sets on consumers that often believe they have already acquired an HD set through the purchase of a device marked HD Ready.

3D also gives the consumer the opportunity to wear comedy glasses, and while they are not manufactured from the red-green microfilm that was familiar with earlier efforts, they still have a certain X-Ray Specs feel about them. Consumers also have the chance to lose pairs behind the sofa, have them covered in chocolate by the kids, or just eaten by the dog.

But if glasses are the problem, then maybe Philips should think again over this week’s decision to pull out of 3D imaging production and research, closing the door on the WOWvx technology that did not require the use of additional eyeware.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK, early proponents first of HD and now 3D, have been demonstrating an early version of a system dubbed Integral TV. Based on an SHV camera that uses 32 mega pixels in combination with an array of cylindrical lenses, Integral TV boasts near holographic properties, though currently offering but a low resolution. On the positive side, it does not require glasses.

Sky has been a major proponent of 3DTV, going further than it has ever before with any emerging technology, all the time reminding its trade audience that there are no firm plans to introduce any commercial 3D service. There may be dissenting voices from other parts of the European broadcasting community, but so far these have remained largely silent.

I wonder if there is perhaps some sort of subliminal message coming through from Sky’s support of 3D. True, under the Sky proposals you would still need to spend a few thousand pounds on the purchase of a new television and wear those glasses, but given that the technology works on today’s set-tops, the purchase of Sky+ HD means you are at least partially futureproofed.