Page last updated at 23:30 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

2010 gears up for explosion of 3D

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

Football fans wearing 3D glasses
Will everyone be wandering around in 3D specs?

If 2009 was dominated by touch technology then 2010 looks set to be the year of 3D.

3D has been one of the biggest hits of the cinemas this year and it is likely to continue its stride into other mediums during 2010, experts agree.

TV manufacturer LG wants to sell nearly half a million 3D-ready TV sets next year as the World Cup kicks off in the format.

Meanwhile laptops and games consoles are also getting a 3D makeover.

Acer has already released what it is claiming is the world's first 3D-capable laptop, and most agree it will be the first of many.

One critic likened the screen of the Acer Inspire 5738DZG to that of a 1960's cinema "but in laptop form". Others have dismissed the 3D capability as a gimmick, but most agree that it will be the start of a glut of similar machines.

Acer has created its 3D effect by putting a polarising filter over the screen which splits images into separate streams.

When combined with a pair of polarising glasses (and the laptop comes with a free pair) it allows users to view content in 3D.

Some movie trailers come preloaded on the laptop, while software called TriDef 3D can add a third dimension to PC games, DVDs and video footage with varying degrees of success.

Microsoft is watching developments in the field with interest. Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's vice president of user experience believes the technology will play a major role over the next decade.

"A 3D spatial camera inside a computer will offer a new way to interact with content. It will allow people to spatially organise things with older things farther away," she said.

Trendy glasses

Ear-controlled PCs could happen, according to Microsoft's corporate vice president, Julie Larson-Green

Gaming is the most obvious first stop for 3D and Sony committed in November to making all its PS3 consoles "upgradeable to 3D", suggesting games are on their way.

Meanwhile Microsoft continue to work on its own alternative to a gaming remote control called Project Natal, which uses an optical camera and 3D sensors to read body movements and facial expressions.

In order to view content, some form of eyewear is going to be essential although it is unlikely to have much in common with the cardboard spectacles of the 1970s.

Jeremy Fennell, head of marketing for Dixon Store Group, is betting on visitors to January's high-tech CES show spending a lot of their time on the conference floor wearing 3D glasses.

"An awful lot of money has been invested in 3D and there is a world of difference between cardboard glasses from the 1970s to designer 3D RayBans and aviators," he said.

He expects to have a range in store towards the end of next year.

In the world of TVs, HD-ready is rapidly being replaced by 3D-ready.

LG Electronics aims to sell 400,000 3D TVs in 2010 and 3.4 million in 2011.

One of the drivers for such sets will be the World Cup which Fifa has confirmed will be the first soccer event shot in 3D.

But 3D isn't the only thing changing TV. More sets will be available with built-in net access, making the viewing of content such as the iPlayer a whole lot simpler.

And Microsoft's UK managing director Ashley Highfield envisages an even more interactive future for the humble box in the corner.

"If TVs have some form of 2-way functionality, the TV recognises you and you can flick through too find a programme you want to watch," he said at a recent conference, although he did not offer a timeframe for such smart sets.

Headset patent

Facebook logo
Facebook in 3D?

Apple has recently filed a patent suggesting that it is looking into create its own 3D display, possibly as an alternative to the mouse and keyboard.

The patent refers to "an electronic device for providing a display that changes based on the user's perspective".

MacRumours speculated that the maker of the Mac is planning to offer greater interactivity for users via an established technology known as head-tracking.

Using a camera, such a system would be able to detect a user's position and adjust a 3D display to create the illusion that an on-screen object is physically present, it said.

Such patents are not unusual though. In December 2008 Apple filed one seemingly aimed at created a 3D desktop.

And back in 2007 university student Johnny Chung created his own head tracking device using a Nintendo Wii remote controller which became one of YouTube's most popular videos.

Interest in 3D is likely to continue unabated as 2010 begins to make it a reality for consumers.

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