CES 2010: Livin' the 3D Life

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, televisions are flatter than ever, despite their new, third dimension

2 min read

CES has barely started, but it has already come into focus. I can't tell you exactly what the show is about yet, but I can tell you its format--3D.

Today was a day of big press conferences by big companies and each one highlighted 3D. Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic, even Monster Cable--they all touted their new 3D products. I'm writing this instead of going to Sony's 90-minute press conference (twice as long as anyone else's; my colleague Tekla Perry is there) but I guarantee that more than a few of those minutes will be devoted to new 3D televisions and surely 3D Blu-Ray players (and who knows what other 3D products as well; Panasonic showed a 3D videocamera).

According to Jeffrey Katzenberg, 4 of the top 10 box office successes of the 2009 movie year were 3D, even though there were only 10 3D feature movies made in the entire year (out of 170 total movies released), including his own Monsters vs Aliens. Yes, that Jeffrey Katzenberg--the CEO of Dreamworks Animation. He was on hand at the Samsung press conference (along with the CEO of Technicolor, Fred Rose) to express his admiration for Samsung's new line of 3D-capable televisions ("works of art") and his happiness at being part of "the Samsung family."

Samsung was not the only maker to pull big-name partners out of the wings. Panasonic trotted out recorded versions of the heads of DirectTV and Skype and, in person, film producer Jon Landau, whose move Avatar has already, he mentioned in passing, broken the $1 billion mark. According to Box Office Mojo, two-thirds of that is outside the U.S.) DirectTV announced that beginning tomorrow it will be broadcasting 3D to its customers, with new set-top boxes and software to accommodate it.

Toshiba made 3D the centerpiece of its press conference. More accurately, the company's major announcement was about several new lines of televisions that incorporate its version of the Cell microprocessor, and what made the Cell especially important was the ways it renders 3D better than regular processors. (Spectrum gave the Cell a thumbs up all the way back in January of 2006, in "Winner: Multimedia Monster"; more recently we made gentle fun of Toshiba for building it into a top-of-the-line laptop, the Qosmio, though we did include it in our 2008 Holiday Gift guide)

Even Monster Cable followed form, both in terms celebrity endorsers--flanked by the son, daughter, and nephew of the late Miles Davis, company president Noel Lee announced a special Miles Davis  headphone-and-CD-and-DVD package in honor of the 50th anniversary of "Kind of Blue"--and in terms of 3D. Monster doesn't have an 3D-specific products, but Lee got one of today's biggest laughs when he announced, in a booming voice, "I LOVE 3D! Not because I love 3D, but because it needs faster cables!" Monster's HDMI now goes up to a crazy 15.8 Gb/s with today's announcements.

There's no limit to 3D mania. Tomorrow I have an appointment to talk with a company making a $100 pair of3D active glasses that have a high-end microprocessor built right into them.

Only Sharp stood outside, not even a little wet from the wave of 3D products announced here. Instead, it showed off something that seemed even more innovative or at least more immediately useful, a new collection of televisions that use what it calls QuadPixel. In short, it has added a fourth, yellow subpixel--instead of RGB, its sets are now RGBY. It had seven different QuadPixel televisions on stage, and I have to say, the colors looked stunning. And no special glasses were needed.



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