SportsTechLA: 3D Adoption Curve Likely To Outpace HD

Panasonic and Sony, with respective partners DirecTV and ESPN, will drive 3D into the home with 3D sports content beginning this June. The early believers in 3D sports have their work cut out for them, but, as they explained during a panel at SVG’s SportsTechLA event, held Jan. 19 at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, they expect consumer adoption of 3D to far outpace that of HD.

“We believe the adoption curve for 3D is much faster than HD,” said Bob Perry, EVP at Panasonic Consumer Electronics North America. “The first HD sets were five times more expensive than an analog set of the same size, but that won’t be true of the 3D sets. And to the consumer, the concept of HD meant virtually nothing until they experienced it. That’s not true with 3D.”

He pointed out that most consumers at this point have some frame of reference for 3D, whether it was good or bad, from videogames or movies, whereas the early days of HDTV did not provide that familiarity.

“Consumers are looking to upgrade and future-proof themselves, so I do think it will happen more quickly than HD,” agreed Steven Roberts, SVP of new media and business development for DirecTV. “In terms of education and experience, it’s up to all of us to ensure that the consumer is educated in how they can do it. If you’re a DirecTV HD subscriber, you can go to Best Buy and buy a Panasonic, LG, or Samsung TV and make that automatic transition from 2D to 3D.”

Once the DirecTV 3D networks launch in June, he explained, HD subscribers can download software to their set-top boxes that will enable 3D viewing. Those channels will include episodic content and sporting events, including the MLB All-Star Game, in partnership with Fox.

“We’re not trying to accelerate the obsolescence of any product or device,” assured Perry. “When a consumer buys a 3D TV, they’re also buying a great 2D TV. The enhancements for 3D also make a 2D TV perform better.”

Panasonic’s end-to-end solution involved creating cameras, displays that could switch fast enough to provide the realism the cameras could capture, and a matrix switching system that allows the brain to see an image with the depth captured in the images. Sony took a similar tack with its lens–to–living-room strategy, developing 3D cameras for acquisition and Blu-ray players, game consoles, and TVs for consumption.

“PlayStation3 will be upgraded to support 3D playback, so consumers can go out right now and experience 3D,” said Nick Colsey, VP of business planning for Sony Electronics’ consumer products division.

All of the companies represented on the panel have invested significantly in 3D, although some were able to leverage much of the infrastructure that had been put in place for HD.

“We believe it’s our position to see the marketplace and make sure that anyone who does buy a 3D set gets the best experience, so we did invest significantly in 3D,” Roberts said. “Will we see a return on investment next year? No, but we believe, in the next few years, we will.”

Both Sony and Panasonic 3D products use active-shutter glasses. Both companies consider the active shutter necessary to provide a true 3D experience. However, there is no shutter-speed standard in place, so it is unclear whether a single pair of glasses can be used interchangeably with Sony and Panasonic sets.

“We believe there should be compatibility,” Perry said. “With everybody on the planet? We don’t give guarantees, because everybody’s in business. But, for the major brands that the American household is used to, consumers should expect compatibility by the time the sets hit the streets, so that they’ll be able to make informed decisions.”