Thursday, May 17, 2007

Televisions Unite

WOW look out future…I had the privilege of going on a tour of Turner Broadcasting Systems R&D facilities. The Technology Association of Georgia arranged this for a small group of members. If you live in Georgia, work in the field of technology, and don’t belong to TAG, shame on you. Our host was Dan Darling the CIO and Alastir Hamilton, Corporate Senior Vice President, Head, Platform Research & Development. A great big thank you for all the effort Turner put into this. It was great.

Now I am sworn by a double secret handshake not to reveal what Turner is up to but it will blow your socks off. Maxwell Smart, your shoes won’t be the coolest anymore. What I can discuss is the general trends in media and the perceived impact it will have on my life. I can’t be more specific then that. First of all about two years ago I started the move to HDTV. I have a 50” Samsung DLP that I love. I use an outside antenna to pick up all of the local channels in high resolution HDTV. It’s wonderful. By the way I live about 30 miles outside of Atlanta and I still get great reception. I am struggling with the cost and infrastructure issues of propagating this technology throughout the house. With attenuation of the antenna signal for long runs I don’t think I can use over-the-air. So I may be stuck with a larger satellite bill or worse yet cable. I use Direct TV today and am happy with the NSTC digitized picture.

3D movies have been around for some time. Most of us have seen them either at the theater or an amusement park like Disney World. Typically we are asked to don 3D glasses to make the effects stand out. If you have been to the Disney World Haunted House you have seen projected 3D. During the ride you can see the ghosts in what would appear to be three dimensions. On March 30, 2007, Disney released the first truly wide release of an animation film in digital 3D. Quietly in 2002, Japan started the 3D monitor movement with the introduction of production grade 3D monitors. A little over a year ago the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) demonstrated that they can create a three dimensional image in air using optoelectronics.

The short-term market for 3d technology seems to be CAD, Healthcare and gaming. The benefits of three-dimensional viewing in these fields are enormous. These market will eventual drive down cost and make three-dimensional TV a reality. Hollywood is already recording in 3D and has been for some time. Content is being made available. Reuters ran an article on March 29, 2007 stating that Hollywood was willing to bet on 3D making them money.

So here is the real question for us consumers…. How long will my investment in HDTV last? The first commercial telecast of a color television program was in 1951. That is the last time we as consumers had to concern ourselves with broadcast technology until High-Definition. Three-Dimensional Television will not wait 50 years. My guess is that there are commercial market drivers that will get it here in less than 15. I have TV’s older than that.

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