If you think about it, Las Vegas is the perfect illusion: turning the middle of a desert into a mirage that beckons to well-heeled punters is an impressive feat. Which is appropriate that this year's CES, held as always at Vegas, is becoming a 3D love-fest. The trick of bringing images to vivid, 3D life on the big screen is moving rapidly to the home. Avatar's success at the box office may be a contributing factor but whatever the reason, the big CE firms are jumping on it faster than we can say James Cameron.
Following LG's earlier press conference which involved lots of thin TVs, including a 3D ready model, Sony's turn in the evening further cemented the 3D CES impression. The media was given 3D glasses, with the opening sequence marked by a Jimi Hendrix performance, in 3D of course. Expect more to come from Sony as it revitalizes older content by making them 3D.
If that's not impressive enough, hey, what about a pop star to up the glamor quotient? Taylor Swift was brought out by CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, to talk and then to perform (without Kanye West to interrupt) before the media. Hovering in the background however, was Sony's 3D camera, which managed to capture the performance and '3Dify' it almost instantly, which was displayed on the screen behind Ms Swift in full 3D glory.
What was to come from Sony was its blueprint for creating a 3D world. First up, 3D capable TVs of course and descending from above, was the new look for Sony's BRAVIA TV (the new HX, LX and NX series). A new monolithic design that gives it an appearance of a black slab, with a special mount that tilts it at six degrees off the vertical for a presumably better viewing angle. More importantly, Sony has pencilled in a model, the XBR-60LX900 which will come with integrated, full HD 3D capabilities, accompanied by two pairs of active shutter glasses, and two other models, the XBR-52HX900 and 55HX800, which are 3D capable but with the glasses and transmitter sold separately, making them optional. These three models will be available this summer.
Sony knows too clearly that 3D is not just about the TVs. ESPN is doing 3D for the upcoming World Cup on the first ever 3D sports channel and Sony is producing the 3D Blu-ray for the event. Meanwhile, Sony is plunging headlong into the production aspect, with Discovery and IMAX brought in as partners for a planned 3D TV network. While we probably won't see this till 2011, Sony is laying the foundations.
With its 3D cameras in wide use for producing 3D content, a movie arm that can be counted on to produce 3D movies and now going for a 3D TV network, it's an entire 3D ecosystem from Sony.
Sitting as we are back in the hotel, we can't help but wonder when and some say if, this future of 3D entertainment and gaming in the home will become the present and mainstream. Only recently have the prices of HDTVs fallen sufficiently low that the lower middle-class is able to afford them. In the U.S, with analog TV broadcasts done away with in June 2009, you would expect HDTVs to be more prevalent. But even then, a recent Nielsen report notes that there are around 47.4 million HDTVs in the U.S, which is close but still less than 50% adoption rate.
While it may appear a bold gamble by Sony to dive into 3D so quickly, unlike HD, 3D is an optional feature on almost all of these BRAVIA TVs. The other qualities of Sony's bestselling BRAVIA TVs, from its engine to the intelligence and connectivity features, will certainly continue to attract buyers, especially with the new monolithic design.
But lest you think that 3D was all Sony did, click on the next page for other highlights.