3D Games and Films to Launch in Living Rooms

Three-dimensional technology is spreading from the cinema to the home with media companies and consumer electronics manufacturers gearing up for living-room launches of the viewing technology. A number of 3D product announcements are expected at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the biggest electronics trade fair of the year, with video game devices expected to be among the first to find their way into the hands of consumers.

The graphics chipmaker Nvidia will launch its GeForce 3D Vision product: 3D spectacles that link up wirelessly to a personal computer and allow gamers to play more than 350 existing PC games in 3D. Nvidia has also developed a video player that will allow 3D films to be played on a PC monitor or through one of the “3D ready” television sets that will be on display at the show. But one problem is that Hollywood studios have yet to agree on a common standard for 3D.

“It’s in its infancy. One studio is going one way and another in a different direction, but we plan to support all standards,” says Ujesh Desai, Nvidia’s GeForce general manager.

Also for gamers, a $400 22-inch 3D monitor from iZ3D, special glasses included, will go on sale across the US this week and the company will demonstrate at CES a version that displays Xbox and PlayStation 3 console games in 3D.

With high-definition television having come into the mainstream, consumer electronics manufacturers are seeing 3D as the next big innovation that will boost TV sales, although the initial sets on display have little content to show at present. Consumers may be more ready for 3D than companies imagine. A recent survey by the Quixel research company of more than 750 HDTV owners found that about half were interested in watching 3D at home and more than a third expected 3D TV in one to two years’ time, with content coming from their cable and satellite operators and Blu-ray disc players.

“Consumers have a very positive outlook on 3D, but economic conditions are making people less likely to want to pay more for it,” says Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel research principal.

CES attendees will also be able to see a cinematic live sports presentation in 3D of the national college football championship game, filmed on specially modified Sony HD cameras and presented by Fox Sports. David Hill, head of Fox Sports, has already warned TV makers not to expect 3D on broadcast television unless they agree to subsidise the cost of cameras and other equipment needed by the networks to convert to the format.

In the UK, the satellite broadcaster BSkyB has been trying out 3D cameras and testing the delivery of 3D programming through set-top boxes.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of the DreamWorks Animation studio, told analysts recently that 3D on TV currently had to be watched close up in a darkened room to get the same impact as in a cinema. He said: “It’s new hardware. It’s going to take a long time before there’s wide penetration”.

By Chris Nuttall and Kenneth Li, The Financial Times