Industry Beats Drums for 3-D TV

The buzz from today's kickoff of the world's biggest electronics show is quickly building around a blast from the past.

3-D entertainment -- goofy glasses and all -- has taken center stage at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, as announcements of new televisions, partnerships and content channels pour in.

Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and JVC all announced partnerships Wednesday with 3-D powerhouse RealD to bring 3-D technology to home televisions.

Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN announced that it will broadcast a minimum of 85 live sporting events in 3-D this year, including this summer's World Cup. And Discovery unveiled an alliance with Sony and IMAX to deliver a 24-hour 3-D nature channel.

DirecTV and Panasonic also said that starting in June 2010 DirecTV HD customers will be able to receive a free upgrade to receive three 3-D-only channels.

TV Makers: Consumers Want Theater-Like 3-D at Home

Entertainment stars and celebrities even made appearances to give the new dimension more visibility. Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke in support of Samsung's 3-D foray, and country singer Taylor Swift made an unexpected 3-D visit on behalf of Sony.

The industry is rallying behind the revived retro technology and touting it as the "next big thing," but not everyone is convinced that 3-D TV is going to become the next HDTV anytime soon.

"The beauty of 3-D is that it delivers a vivid image with life-like depth," said Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, in a press event Wednesday. Though the technology has had a bumpy ride since the first 3-D film in 1922, he said it has advanced way beyond uncomfortable cardboard glasses and blurry images.

"It's clear that people love watching 3-D film in the theaters," he said, noting the success of box office hits like "Avatar" and "Monsters and Aliens." "Consumers are expecting the same experience that they are getting in the theater in their home."

Fueled by that conviction, Samsung Wednesday unveiled an entire 3-D "eco-system" of 3-D TVs, home theater systems, glasses and content from partners Dreamworks and Technicolor.

Is 3-D the Next Natural Step in Television and Film?

David Steel, senior vice president of marketing for Samsung, said that it isn't just the string of recent box office victories that are driving industry interest in 3-D.

"There's a real wow factor when you watch the picture, it's emotional, it's dramatic," he told Though he acknowledged that sometimes his industry creates technology ahead of consumer appreciation or demand, he said with 3-D they're tapping into something with big potential.

He also said that a boom in home entertainment indicates that now is the time to move 3-D from theaters to the living room.

But for 3-D enthusiasts, this isn't just about selling more TVs, it's about advancing along an evolutionary process that has taken television and film from silent to black and white to color to HD.

"You see the world in 3-D, why wouldn't you want to see your entertainment in 3-D?" asked Rick Heineman, vice president of corporate communications for RealD.

His company's technology, which powered movies such "Avatar," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Up," is also used by the military and research institutions including NASA.

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