I’m making my prediction for the top disruptive technology for 2010, and that is 3D. Three dimensional movies are nothing new – they were around before I was even born. And admittedly they’ve made leaps and bounds in the digital era (many are claiming Avatar to be a defining moment in cinema technology), but on the advent of CES 2010, 3D is looking like its going to go somewhere its never gone before – into the home.
Several announcements over the last few months point to the fact that in-home 3D is about to become a reality, teetering on a cusp much like HDTV did a decade ago.
For one, screen manufacturers are developing high-definition 3D screens designed for consumer use. LG announced in early December a 23-inch model, and rumors are going around the blogs about models from other manufacturers shown at CES this week that will come in at about $1,300.
It also looks like we’ll have the content to support those screens. Just today we learned that ESPN is going to launch a full-3D channel this summer during the World Cup, which will broadcast 85 games through June 2011. The channel will go dark when a 3D event is not being broadcast.
Also, the Discovery Channel, Sony and Imax signed a letter of intent today to create a joint venture to create the US’s first full-time 3D cable channel. According to USA Today, “the channel initially will feature lots of shows about science and nature, much of it from Discovery's and Imax's libraries. But the partners plan to license TV rights to general entertainment 3D movies, music videos, and game-related content.”
This is a big step that will require a lot of investment from the networks, as 2D shows can’t be converted into 3D automatically. The show will have to be shot twice with two different kinds of cameras. For ESPN, this means that they will need two film crews at each game, and even two sets of announcers.
The success of 3D will also initially hang on the cable, phone and satellite providers, who have the option of carrying the channels and how much of a premium they will make consumers pay to watch them. My guess is that big companies like DirectTV and Comcast will jump on board right away but charge a high premium, while more local providers will hold out for awhile.
What’s also important here is to watch how this technology impacts our industry. Since we can’t wear 3D glasses everywhere we go, out-of-home 3D applications have to be autostereoscopic, also known as no-glasses 3D. This is achieved by placing several lens filters on an LCD over specially-designed content. If you’ve been paying attention over the past several years, you’ll have noticed that the technology is getting better, meaning that the images look a “lot more 3D” than they did several years ago.
As they say in the media business…watch this space!