China is Getting Serious about 3D

I am writing this from Korea, where I just had the pleasure of attending the 3DIT conference held at Kwangwoon University in Seoul. It was a one-day event with a variety of speakers and a small 3D exhibition area.

There were three high level takeaways for me:
1) China is getting very interested in 3D and has formed a new association to start to coordinate development activities.
2) I became aware of an even broader scope of 3D activities worldwide.
3) The maturity of advanced integral imaging, electronic holography and other advanced 3D imaging/display techniques is richer than I had imagined.

One of the speakers at the event, Flight Lee, is the Vice-Secretary General of the newly formed China 3D Industry Association (C3DIA), which will be under the supervision of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. In his talk, he outlined a rather ambitious plan to bolster all aspects of the 3D infrastructure.

Key aspects included:
- Control of the industrial standard of 3D displays
- Control of mobile phone operator licenses and 3D services
- Control of the broadcast bandwidth for 3D services
- Control of the TV channel licensing for 3D broadcasting
- Control of the Internet and contents for 3D gaming and video delivery
- Setting 3D technology direction and policy
- Control of government funding for 3D R&D

In addition, R&D activities have already begun, which will focus on cooperation between industry, academic, research and government organizations. This is government planning in all its glory, and depending upon the amount of capital committed and the aggressiveness of the organizers, it could have a big influence on the market.

Other talks at the event described 3D activities at universities, consortiums, associations and institutes from around the world. I was aware on many of these activities, but certainly not all. In all of these areas, except for the U.S., broad government funding supports many of these activities. These projects are far too numerous to delineate, but one project stood out the 4-year 3DTV program, which concluded recently in Europe. This program involved dozens of companies and Universities and spawned more than 350 published papers. More than a dozen follow-on projects have since been initiated with real commercial products and technologies expected. Add to this, similar efforts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, plus now China, and it is clear that investment and momentum is building for 3D.

The third major takeaway was a greater appreciation and understanding of some of the more advanced forms of 3D display and image capture. Yes, many of the displays and image capture methods described remain rather crude by stereoscopic display standards - and it will still be many years before we see commercial electro-holography systems, but the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. As interest in 3D accelerates and more attention is paid to these next-generation systems, we will begin to see some pretty amazing systems in the not so distant future, I think.

The conference was composed of academic 3D display and capture experts who did a great job of providing an overview of global activities and status. I was the only real business or commercially-oriented speaker in the crowd, but I am glad I was invited to attend. There are rich and fertile innovations occurring in these labs, universities and institutes, and others in the commercial world would benefit from more awareness of this activity. European and Asian countries get this for the most part, but I am not so sure U.S. companies do. Maybe we should take a page from this playbook.

By Chris Chinnock, DisplayDaily