Motorola Shows 2D-to-3D Video Converter

Motorola is working on a converter box that can process and transform incoming 2D video signals into 3D images "on the fly," and showed off some of that handiwork in private demos at last week's Cable Show. Showgoers who were privy to the demo said the Moto device, which is roughly the size of a Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA), is capable of converting 2D images from a Blu-ray disc into 3D formats that are readable by new, 3D-capable TV sets.

Although industry sources citing the demo referenced only the Blu-ray example, sources say the Moto converter is being designed to work with just about any cable box, though it's considered most likely that it would be relegated for use with set-tops with integrated HD capabilities and the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). In the demo, the box served as a 2D-to-3D bridge sitting between the set-top and the 3D-capable TV set.

Such a device could help solve a general shortcoming with the emerging 3DTV market. Although TV manufactures are eager to spark sales using new 3D-capable sets, there's still a relative dearth of content to put on them, offering a replay of the early days of the HDTV market.

Discovery Communications, ESPN, Avail-TVN , Comcast, Cablevision Systems, and DirecTV are all trying to prime the pump with special 3DTV events and technology investments, as well as the coming launch of a handful of linear and on-demand 3D channels. It's still questionable, however, if that small amount of available 3D content will be enough to justify new set purchases in the early going.

Sources say Moto hopes its 2D-to-3D box will help to fill that gap early on, though it's still deciding whether to distribute the device through operator partners or to center on a retail-only strategy. It may end up pursuing both channels. It's also unclear when Motorola will start to sell the device, though the 2010 holidays would be a logical launch timeframe since that's when the 3DTV industry is expected to make its first substantial retail push. It's also unknown how much the box would sell for should Moto try out retail. Motorola declined to comment on the 2D/3D converter in development or the demos at last week's show.

There's also the question of how good content will look when it's converted from 2D to 3D since 3D uses different production values to maximize the effect of the technique. However, folks who did see the demos at the show last week said they were impressed with the results Motorola was able to achieve.

By Jeff Baumgartner, Light Reading Cable