The Third Age – Part 2Saturday, 20th March, 2010 | No Comments »
Just fifteen years ago – ancient history on the technology timeline – early developers of 3D TV were trying to get it off the ground, but failing. Now, what was nothing more than an armchair concept and a novelty item, has been launched from pipe dreamterritory into massively hyped, fully-fledged reality.
Success, however, is ultimately engineered and some of the biggest names in the industry are already jumping on the 3D bandwagon. LG already has a 3D-capable line of flat panel TV’s being introduced in May. Of course, 3D glasses are required, so if you’re the kind of person who loses remotes then things don’t look hassle-free, but LG representative Axel Voosen says innovation is right around the corner.
“3D technology is still developing. I know people aren’t fond of wearing the glasses but this will definitely change. It will be at least three years before engineers design televisions and monitors that can be watched without glasses,” he said, aware of what premature promises bring. “You never know,” he quickly adds, “we might get there sooner.” It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist to watch 3D on screens without glasses – Voosen noted that such displays can be found. It’s that the tech still needs refinement as the displays are constrained by “serious issues pertaining to angles” and “distance sensitive” concerns.
With companies stocking shelves and flooring the marketing pedal, will the average Hong Konger hop aboard the tech train? Editor of Hong Kong tech site NeonPunch.com, Jetson Lee, is sceptical: “It all depends on price and how 3D content providers work it out,” he says. “HD is one thing, but will families put on glasses to watch the news or cooking shows? Our initial reaction is no, and it will be a niche product.” So it’s not for everybody, but will it be for somebody? Lee thinks so: “It will be great for movie buffs.”
Even last year, electronics giant Sony unveiled a pair of 3D glasses that project video onto the lens while still allowing you to see the world around you – sort of like a heads-up-display. These glasses are part of Sony’s push to embrace 3D television – but tapping 3D doesn’t end there. Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. Chairman Kaz Hirai announced that at some point in 2010, firmware updates will be released for the Playstation 3 console to allow for full 3D stereoscopic gaming functionality, and this is just one of the moves of many to make 3D gaming a mainstream reality, as Sony and Microsoft match each other move for move in the quest for console-market domination. Ubisoft has all but taken the lead in the software department, with their Avatar game becoming the first to use 3D technology well. Yannis Mallat, chief executive of the Montreal subsidiary, believes that 3D gaming is the future of the video-game industry and that Ubisoft has taken a step further to transforming itself from a video-game developer to a “360-degree entertainment content provider.”
But what good is a 3D game world if we can’t move around in it like it was real life? The answer is as conceptually exciting as it is a logical step forward. Johnny Lee of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University has used the Wiimote for the Nintendo Wii console to create a headtracking device.
“It tracks the movement of your head and changes the scene accordingly depending on what angle you view the screen at,” he says. “The display is transformed from an electronic photo frame to a portal or a window into another room,” – essentially, the game world. Gone is that feeling of flatness when staring at 3D on a 2D panel.
Now, picture a stealth game where you have to hide in shadows and peer around corners. The game world moves with your head. You see objects at different angles and the light reflects and refracts accurately. Look up and down at a totally realised virtual world. It’s just one step away from sensors attached to the body. Walk forward in game. Lean left and dodge a bullet. Transfer this technology to a film or television show and the results are even more mind-blowing. The technology between 3D gaming and 3D filming is closely linked, and advancement in one usually points the way for the other. Ultimately, the refinement of the technology is still in infancy, but the motivation is there. Maturation will inevitably follow. “3D is to pictures what Dolby Stereo was to sound,” Mallat says. “No one wants to go back to stereo.”
Whether this third golden age of 3D will succeed where the others failed is to be seen. What’s undeniable, however, is that this once quaint and previously never-quite-right method of presentation has pulled out the big guns this time around in its bid to become an integral part of our lives, and the backing’s there across the board to keep its battle raging.
HITS AND MISSES IN 3D
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
The fondly remembered 1953 3D sci-fi classic’s poster boasted: Fantastic sights leap out at you in 3-Dimension! Amazing! Exciting! Spectacular! And at the time, this fresh alien-fest was just that.
Dancing his way into Disneyland, Michael Jackson had a generation of kids ducking for cover as things flew at their faces in this long-running 1986 3D film and attraction. The Star Wars-influenced, George Lucas-produced and Francis Ford Coppola-directed space-based mini film is set to be revamped later in the year and will return to Disneyland.
After over 100 years of work, Avatar, the most successful movie of all time, is the film that’s revealed 3D’s full potential. The clunky script and overbearing cod-morals can’t keep this movie down, with Chinese cinemas still booked up with an ever-growing waiting list.
NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 6: FREDDY’S DEAD
Released on video in 1991, this installment of the dreamkiller’s 3D venture came with two sets of glasses and boasted unspectacular stereoscopic sequences interspersed into the unspectacular movie.
Dennis Quaid hunted down the world’s most famous rubber shark in awful sub-par 3D. Silly plot, silly special effects and a silly shark meant this was destined for the bargain bins.
Nintendo can’t be blamed for trying with this under-developed and clunky console. The thought was there but the technology wasn’t, meaning in 1995 it left a Christmas of disappointed children in its wake.