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Intel to drive 'PC-ification' of stereo 3D

Posted: 22 Aug 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:stereoscopic 3D  x86  PC-ification  stereo 3D 

Details of the plot are unclear, but the early reviews are in: Intel has taken a great "leap ahead" in extending its x86 into consumer electronics. Perhaps its greatest new initiative is a move into stereoscopic 3D. At the Intel Developer Forum, Aug.20 Intel announced a deal with DreamWorks Animation to enhance its content for 3D cinema, as well as a separate initiative to bring 3D to TVs and other devices. The duo will brand content from their work as Intru3D.

That's about all the detail available from either company. But that's enough detail to get some long time consumer watchers excited.

"Intel is early enough with stereo 3D that they can still influence that path and may be able to carve out an intellectual property stake in the technology," said Richard Doherty, principal of technology consulting firm Envisioneering.

Just what Intel is doing—or not doing yet—is perhaps less important than the fact the PC processor giant has woken up to the big trend ahead. Hollywood studios, consumer electronics giants and technology providers are gearing up to drive the emerging phenomena of 3D cinema into home products as the next big thing beyond today's big flat-screen HDTV.

The trend has been years in the making, so far largely without the help of the PC industry.

"Intel is finally becoming a player here and Dreamworks will give them credibility," Doherty said. "Intel has the capability to bring real insights into the needs of stereo 3D in silicon and tools," he added.

"Three-D for the cinema is here," said Eric Kim, general manager of Intel's digital home group in a press Q&A at IDF. "There are a lot of interesting technologies to bring stereo 3D to the TV, but it is still in an early stage.

"Once the TV can handle today's polarised [3D glasses], the technology will take off in a big way," added Kim, referring to the inexpensive sunglasses used by companies such as Real D Cinema to bring 3D to as many as 1,100 movie screens today.

Bringing stereo 3D to TVs

Today there is no inexpensive way to bring stereo 3D to the LCD displays used on mainstream HDTVs. That's because LCDs typically have slow switching time, a problem for stereo 3D that often uses ways of pulsing quickly between left and right eye images.

Intel will work to bring stereo 3D to TVs, PCs and mobile devices, said Renee James, an Intel software executive. However, she gave no details on exactly what role Intel will play in an area already crowded with providers and many more expected.

Real D, which has a commanding lead in the cinema, hired Koji Hase in January to head its move into 3D TV. Hase won a technical Emmy for his work helping to create the DVD format. Real D is not discussing specifics of its plans for a consumer offering yet.

Dolby Labs also has a 3D cinema technology getting deployed in theaters, but it would not comment on any plans for a 3D approach. A handful of smaller companies including TDVision Systems and Sensio Technologies (Montreal) are pursuing this area with announced products.

Consumer giants such as Panasonic and others say they have work in their labs and consider 3D TV strategic, but they are not willing to comment on the record.

Doherty said Intel could help with the transition to stereo 3D by providing production tools, something lacking today.

"The 3D tools used today have largely been created internally inside the studios," Doherty said. "Eliminating the cost of developing these tools will really help.

"The PC-ification of stereo 3D could be a major catalyst for this transition" to 3D TV, said Doherty. "This is the biggest news to come out of IDF."

Now that Intel has rolled out its plans, expect Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices will follow.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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