Insight Media takes closer look at 3D market

Market research firm Insight Media is now offering a research report on the emerging 3D market. 3D Display – the stereoscopic type where users where glasses to see in 3D – has clearly been a niche for many years. But recent advancements in the technology is changing the equation. Perhaps the hottest segment is digital cinema where electronic projectors used to show 2D movies can be readily adapted to show 3D movies. And these theaters are going to be used for much more – like 3D sporting events, 3D concerts, 3D gaming experiences and more.

“We are standing at the cusp of a new wave of enthusiasm for stereoscopic 3D,” notes Insight Media President, Chris Chinnock. “This report is groundbreaking in that it surveys the entire 3D industry from cameras to displays, along with nearly 40 market segments. What is remarkable is that each application has developed its own solutions, culture and technology with little awareness for other groups. This report, and a subsequent symposium and exhibition we have planned for September, should help create awareness of the richness of the 3D industry and allow for interdisciplinary discussions and cross-pollination of these applications.”

The report, eentitled “3D Technology and Markets A Study of All Aspects of Electronic 3D Systems, Applications and Markets” finds that recent advances in 3D display technologies have given them image quality equal to the best LCD monitors and TVs at price premiums that are in the range professionals and consumers have shown a willingness to pay. This indicates that key pieces of the 3D puzzle are falling into place and resulting in the adoption of 3D systems in several key market segments.

The market for stereoscopic 3D displays is starting to generate some serious attention – and investment dollars. Stereoscopic 3D displays create left and right eye images with a slightly different perspective that mimics the way humans see in 3D. Displays created with this technology can offer very compelling images. While 3D displays have mostly enjoyed success in specialized niche markets to date, things are changing – and rapidly. Consider the following developments:

• The NBA All-Star game was broadcast live via a closed circuit system in stereoscopic 3D to rave reviews. The broadcast highlighted the viability of live 3D and showed the strengths of 3D for basketball where the focus of the action is a short distance from viewers.

• RealD has plans to outfit nearly 800 digital cinema theaters by the end of 2007 – that’s a lot of theaters. 3D movies consistently provide revenue far in excess of the same 2D version of the movie. That has exhibitors, Hollywood and investors pretty excited. As a result, RealD has just raised $50M and has purchased ColorLink, a key supplier of the left eye/right eye polarization switching technology. Theater attendees wear passive polarized glasses to separate the left and right eye images.

• Dolby Labs, long known for it pioneering work in high-quality audio and video, has announced it is in the 3D cinema game, too. It plans to develop a stereoscopic 3D cinema system based on an approach that is different than RealD’s. In Dolby’s approach, theater attendees will wear glasses that contain red, green and blue narrow-passband filters. But the peak passband of each color set will be slightly shifted for the left and right eyes and matched to the projector to separate the left and right images.

• According to the newly formed Interactive Digital Center (IDC) Consortium, there is not enough awareness of the real benefits of using visualization technology, especially 3D interactive technology. That’s why NVIDIA, Christie Digital, HP and EON Reality have joined together to form the IDC Consortium. Their mission is to establish a de facto worldwide standard for real time 3D visualization solutions.

• Chi Mei Optoelectronics and Neurok Optics announced they have formed a new joint venture to develop and market 3D display products for the electronic entertainment market, as well as for commercial and professional visualization applications, especially the PC gaming market. Neurok Optics and several other companies have developed a new type of stereoscopic 3D display that uses two LCD panels, one placed in front of the other, with a novel and clever way to separate the left and right eye images without loss of contrast, brightness or resolution.

• And in Europe, another consortium has been formed to develop laser-based 3D projection systems (initially targeted at digital cinema use), for longer-term applications for home TV use. The consortium, lead by the Imaging and Displays Research Group (IDRG) at UK-based De Montfort University, also includes Fraunhofer HHI (Germany); Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands); University of West Bohemia (Czech Republic); Sharp Laboratories of Europe; Biotronics3D and Light Blue Optics (UK).

The 380-page 3D report documents the current state of the 3D industry including displays, image sources, formats, standards, applications and