3D television has dominated the early agenda at IFA, Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, with Panasonic and Sony both announcing flurries of new products and initiatives.
Most of Panasonic’s press conference in Berlin was devoted to 3D – one indication of how keen the electronics industry is to persuade consumers that they should embrace the new technology, and spend considerable sums of money upgrading their home electronics set-up.
Alongside new 3D televisons and Blu-ray players, Panasonic also announced a new service to deliver 3D movies and films directly to users’ living rooms. This could fix one of factors that is holding back 3D – a lack of content.
Panasonic will offer access to 2,000 3D movies directly from its TV sets, the company has announced at IFA in Berlin. Europe’s largest technology fair also saw the company unveil a raft of improvements to its TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as continuing to emphasise that it sees 3D as the future for much of the electronics industry.
The new 3D service extends Panasonic’s existing Vieracast TV on demand service. From 2011, a partnership with Acetrax will provide customers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria the opportunity to rent or buy movies from Hollywood major studios such as Paramount directly from the TV.
The Vieracast service currently offers channels such as YouTube and Eurosport, and is available on most Panasonic TVs and Blu-ray players. It also offers free video and voice calls with Skype. New services will be added on an ongoing basis.
The service relies, however, on consumers’ broadband connections, and could lead to users needing to buy more expensive tariffs that provided them with enough data to download large files such as 3D movies.
Panasonic also announced an improved line-up of 3D TVs, offering full HD resolution and improved upscaling of original 2D content to 3D, and paired the new products with new, lighter glasses to allow 3D films to be viewed in relative comfort. Nearly all 3D TVs on display at IFA, however, still require glasses of some sort to be worn.
Hirotoshi Uehara, who runs Panasonic’s TV business, said that this 3D IPTV service would help to propel 3D into the mass market. However, hefty price tags may continue to hold the technology back. One of the Panasonic TVs unveiled at IFA, the 42in TX-P42GT20, is available for pre-order at £1,499.
Panasonic also showed off what it claimed was the first genuine 3D consumer video camera, the HDC-SDT750. This will allow users to shoot their own footage in 3D. Makoto Nagura, director of Panasonic’s video camera business unit, said this would put 3D firmly into the hands of consumers.
“There is still one thing missing today. That is to keep your precious moments in 3D,” Nagura said. The SDT750 will go on sale in October. UK pricing was not available but it is expected to be priced at $1,399 (£908) in the US.
Epson also cast a cloud over the 3D euphoria in Berlin when it failed to show off a 3D projector. It took a much more cautious line than Panasonic, saying that the technology was not yet ready for mass adoption.
“When the market is ready, when the content is ready and when the technology is ready we’ll be there,” Jean-Marie Lacroix, commerical director of Epson Europe, told journalists.
Sony, though, took a very different view as it beat the 3D drum with considerable gusto. It claims to be the only end-to-end 3D provider, as it produces movies shot in 3D, the cameras that are used to film them, and TVs that people can watch them on.
Unlike Epson, Sony did announce a 3D video projector. The WV-90 will let consumers project a 3D film onto a wall, which could give a cinema-style experience.
The Japanese giant also had a prototype model of its first 3D-capable laptop, which chief executive Sir Howard Stringer said would be commercially available next year.
Like Panasonic, Sony is trying to increase the amount of 3D content on the market with a new television service. Stringer, who cited James Cameron’s Avatar as a crucial factor in driving 3D forward, cautioned that film-makers should not rely on 3D at the expense of storyline. “A hit is still a hit, is still a hit, except that in 3D it’s a bigger hit.”
Sony’s entire press conference was filmed live in 3D and broadcast on a large screen. This, however, highlighted one of the other drawbacks to 3D broadcasting – that viewers need to wear special glasses.
Stringer, who described Sony as the “biggest engine” in the 3D train, also argued that the technology could be about more than just films and sport, and demonstrated this with footage of a performance by Chinese pianist Lang Lang.