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The 3D Revolution at NAB and The 3D Gaming Summit

By Kathleen Maher

MTBS is pleased to be joined by Kathleen Maher, Vice President of Jon Peddie Research and Editor-in-Chief of Tech Watch.  Kathleen's early career included being founding editor of the Austin Chronicle, co-founder of Interactivity, and Editor-in-Chief of Cadence and The Peddie Report. She also authors leading industry reports and contributes to several publications, including Communication Arts.

Revolutions always take a long time.  It's the shooting and fighting part that goes fast.  At NAB it looks like we're just winding up the shooting and fighting part for S-3D but that doesn't mean we really know who wins.

As crazy as it is we're still hearing people talk about the stupid glasses and we hear people say the glasses are bothering them.  Clearly, obviously, and totally for sure man, 3D is going to be a fact of life in the movie theaters and it'll certainly be a novelty for home movies and sports.  But, the thing is TV watching is mutating so fast that we're not so sure what people will be watching in 2015 and what they'll be watching it on.

3D Gaming Summit Logo

We participated in the 3D Gaming Summit in Los Angeles.  Although focused on gaming, the conference is a Hollywood affair sponsored primarily by Variety.  Jon Peddie Research was also a sponsor and Neil Schneider used the opportunity to hold an S-3D Gaming Alliance meeting after the summit.

As you might expect of the PC company doing the most to push S-3D gaming, NVIDIA was also a major presence at the conference with Andrew Fear and Phil Eisler spending time on stage promoting S-3D for games.  Speaker Jon Landau said in an off-hand comment that 3D gaming was going to be much bigger than movies and the crowd went crazy.  Ah, well rather they went schizophrenic.

There were some in the audience who just couldn't believe that S-3D is the future of gaming.  There were others who just could not believe there were doubters when the bush was burning right there in front of them.  But hey, what I've been thinking about is this: Landau may well be right, 3D gaming is going to be bigger in the home than 3D television -- but then no one has really agreed that S-3D is going to be the future of television.

I still can't wrap my head around Mom, Dad, Susie, and little Billy sitting in front of the TV set in 3D glasses.  It works just fine until they turn around to talk to each other.  If they're wearing shutter glasses, they'll see a flicker, but even passive glasses are going to raise a titter – everyone just plain looks goofy.  This has never been a problem for gamers.

3D needs to be immersive and that's why it works so well at the movies.  In the theater the darkness and the large screen work together to let you dive into the movie and to be absorbed by it, assuming of course there is no talking idiot behind you or you can shut them out. (By the way, have you noticed yet, that at a really well done 3D movie like Coraline, Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, there are fewer talking idiots?  They'll adapt no doubt but so far, most people are engrossed.)

Kathleen Maher (Tech Watch) and Neil Schneider (S3DGA)
Kathleen Maher (Tech Watch), Neil Schneider (S3DGA) at the 3D Gaming Summit

Gaming is similar.  As has been written so, so many times.  The PC's relationship with the viewer is primarily one to one, and the gamers most willing to spend money on their hobby in the form of advanced PCs, 3D displays, and glasses are playing immersive games.  In fact, the hold up for 3D gaming is that true gamers feel the 3D experience is distracting. It's not immersive enough.  Your brain does a better job of putting you into the picture than 3D gaming technology so far.

By the way, just as an aside, I'm thinking that lenticular 3D is likely to be the death of 3D TV.  Honestly, have you seen it?  It really does look like a slightly better quality 3D card from a Kracker Jax box.  It's not at all immersive in the same way that glasses are immersive.  Rather it causes images to pop out.  It seems that lenticular 3D is going to be a technology for displays.  Even as much as I admire the lenticular 3D mobile screens, I can't help but think they look more like fun gadgets than something that truly adds to the experience.

The revolution continues.  It's far from clear what the role of 3D movies, special events like opera performances, S-3D TV, lenticular screens, and other technologies we haven't even thought about, are going to play in our entertainment lives.

While S-3D was getting all the attention at NAB, there's another revolution being fought after all the shooting and that's IP TV.  While everyone is going crazy about the possibility of people watching TV wearing 3D glasses, IP TV is creeping into our lives and people are sneaking out of the living room to watch video elsewhere (lord only knows what Dad and little Billly are watching – it might not be Bonanza).  We saw Elemental at NAB and Zenverge was taking private meetings and both companies are building hardware system components that will change the math for IP TV – more streams, less money.  They both tell us they're the tip of the ice berg.  There's plenty of competition out there. For IP TV, the shooting is over, but the winners have yet to be determined.

So, here's why Jon Landau was right. S-3D gaming is going to be bigger than 3D TV because more people in the living room are going to be playing games than watching TV.  Really.  Okay, maybe.

Thanks Kathleen!  Please share your comments below.