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CeBIT shrinks but gains a new dimension

by David Reid
BBC Click

Visitors wearing 3D glasses watch a videoclip at the stand of US visual computer technologies company Nvidia
CeBIT 2010 is the first year that 3D technology has featured prominently

Traditionally the world's biggest IT trade fair, CeBIT's size has been reduced by the downturn. It is now mercifully easier on the feet.

But while the fair feels like it is being squeezed in two dimensions, the technology is expanding into three.

Blockbuster films like Avatar have spurred CeBIT to give over considerable space to 3D - a technology that has suddenly become sensitive to its clutter of apparatus.

Take the glasses for instance. Elvis Costello looks cool in spectacles, people watching TV often do not.

Fujifilm has come out with a 3D picture frame as its entry in the race to ditch the specs.

But the glasses are there for a reason.

Visitors walk around the IBM stand
Over 4,000 firms from 68 countries displayed their gadgets at the fair

One of the problems with 3D screens that do not use glasses is that they can often flicker and the left eye can end up seeing what it should not be seeing - the image meant for the right eye.

But the company SeeFront has come up with a system that actually tracks the eyes as they move around, so an individual user can get an impression of 3D without the goggles.

"With a normal TV screen or computer screen you are limited to a certain spot in space which is sometimes called "the sweet spot", says Christoph Grossmann, of SeeFront.

"But it is not so sweet actually at all, because you really have to stick there otherwise the image will go away.

"We employ [webcams] in order to look for the viewer, so our software knows the position of the viewer and the image is optimised constantly for his or her position in space."

Some manufacturers are trying to do away with the glasses others are trying to do away with the screen.

Carl Zeiss has come up with 3D glasses that work very well.

They think people can use them while exercising or on the train. I think I would feel a little self-conscious.

Mobile parties

3D is also infecting the computer market. Six months after Acer launched its 3D-equipped Aspire, MSi is showcasing at Cebit its prototypes for all-in-one 3D PCs.

These days really the power you can get in a laptop is very similar to the power in a full system
Richard Stewart, MSi

It is thought something akin to these will be released into the wild in the third quarter of the year.

Among MSi's launches was the GT660 gamer notebook - the first notebook, says the company, with an LED display.

Richard Stewart, of MSi, said: "Gamers now, they want mobility. They are often going to LAN parties: they are playing games on the road so they're not now tied down to their home.

"In the past, they would have been because they would have been building their own systems. These days really the power you can get in a laptop is very similar to the power you can get in a full system.

"There's not such a big gap as there used to be in the past.

"We actually sponsor a competitive gaming team. They've given us the feedback. They've told us we want this particular type of keyboard and we want a touch-pad.

"Little things that you wouldn't think about as a normal user, but gamers, they know what they want."

Melted crayons

But CeBIT is not all laptops and 3D.

As a slack Dad who is continually looking for a constructive way of neutralising the kids on long car journeys - and telling myself it is somehow educational - there is now something for them to while away the hours.

A visitor tries out the Cinemizer Plus 3D video glasses
New 3D glasses could make the wearer feel a little self-conscious

That is just so long as long as they don't break it in five minutes.

The Story Book from Aiptek is said to help children learn how to read.

"The main menu looks like a bookshelf," says Jannikhe Möller, of Aiptek.

"I get to switch through the different kinds of books. I just click which one I want, press OK and then I can turn around and the story gets started.

"And it gets told to me and I can just read along with the voice, so I can as well learn how to read."

It looks nice now, but just wait till you see it covered in peanut butter and melted crayon.

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