Manufacturers troubled by lack of 3D content

Programming scarce for 3D TVs, Blu-Ray players

NEW YORK -- Don't believe it if anybody tells you 3D TV causes AIDS.

"There's absolutely no data at all that shows there is any problem with viewing 3D," International 3D Society president Jim Chabin told delegates to the 3D Experience industry confab. "But if you ask the public, this is one of their concerns."

Indeed, scattered media reports have focused on consumer fears about 3D-induced nausea, headaches and unknown consequences from long-term exposure to 3D entertainment. But Chabin said there is a more pressing concern for those demonstrating an array of 3D TVs and other home-entertainment gizmos at the 3D Experience: lack of content.

"Even in the stores, people are saying, 'This looks great, but there is nothing to watch on 3D TV," he said.

So far, just a handful of 3D channels have been launched including Sony co-sponsored ESPN 3D and Discovery's 3DNet. The recent introduction of a 3D version of Blu-ray Disc means consumers also have a means of watching movie discs on their 3D sets.

But any paucity of content failed to dent the enthusiasm of those pitching products at the 3D Experience during the weekend. Staged in three sites on Times Square, the confab was designed to attract both at industry professionals and consumers.

With the former in mind, product demos were offered to exec VIPs at the NASDAQ MarketSite. Another big products "showroom" was staged at the consumer-friendly Discovery Exposition Center, home to a King Tut exhibit and attractions drawing science- and nature-minded tourists of just the sort to gravitate to 3D entertainment.

In addition to 3D televisions, vendors hyped products such as the soon-to-launch 3DeeCentral from production-software company Spatial View. Awaiting approval for its PC and Mac applications, the content service will offer film shorts and music videos.

3DMedia's 3D Composer software allows consumers to capture 2D images on cameras and cellphones and convert them to 3D. The Raleigh, N.C.-based company expects eventually to license its technology to TV and mobile-device manufacturers, whose products then also could convert consumers' uploaded images.

And Minneapolis-based BodySound demonstrated its so-called 3D audio system –- vibrating lounge chairs rigged with surround-sound systems that sell for up to $36,000 a piece.

But a wide assortment of 3D televisions filled most of the product showrooms. South Korean consumer-electronics manufacturer LG showed off its new THX-certified 3D TVs. A 60-inch version of a plasma-paneled LG set retails for less than $3,000.

"The value in plasma these days is tremendous," LG new-products director Tim Alessi said.

Manufacturer reps pitched their sets' respective advantages in three key areas: depth perception, image clarity and ghost-free imagery. Most featured either plasma or LCD/LED flat-panel technology.

"There are people who are loyal to plasma, and those who insist on LED," LG's Nikki Zvedzinski observed.

Mitsubishi was demonstrating 3D TV sets offering a third approach. Featuring DLP processing chips and either lasers or lamps to light images, the technology allows Mitsubishi to offer bigger TV screen sizes than others at up to 82 inches wide.

Most 3D sets require use of so-called active eyewear employing shutter technology that costs close to $200 a pair. Toshiba plans to market a 3D TV set viewable without special glasses, but Chabin said image resolution might suffer.

The 3D-society exec predicted that another decade of research and development will be necessary before widespread eyewear-free 3D entertainment will be possible at home or in movie theaters.  Mitsubishi product exec David Naranjo agreed.

"We're stuck with eyewear for the foreseeable future," Naranjo said. "Get used to it."