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2010 Technology Preview

December 30, 2009 By Dennis Burger

...and Beyond

Take a look at the consumer electronics industry’s plans for the next year or so, and it isn’t hard to see the driving hand of the economy behind most of the biggest trends.

The industry playbook is an interesting mix of cautious optimism, conservatism and daring new moves.

Yes, I realize that sounds a lot like a horoscope—“you’re outgoing, but you can be shy at times; you’re confident but often doubt yourself”—but there’s a reason spooky woo-woo like astrology is always more popular in tough economies: In uncertain times, uncertain people look for answers just about anywhere they can find them. Right now the consumer electronics industry is looking at a few key solutions to hopefully carry it into a bigger and brighter year to come.


Panasonic 3D Demo - 10 points for every person you can name in this picture. And if you don't get at least 10...Right now, 3D is being bandied about as everything from the savior of the industry to another potential format war to a complete and utter waste of time. Perhaps it’s all three at the same time.

The problem is, much of the discussion about 3D is little more than speculation wearing a nice suit. There isn’t an industry-wide 3D standard yet, and if this past CEDIA Expo was any indication, there won’t be one anytime soon. (Edit: Oops! Since I wrote this they have decided on a standard! 3D here we come!)

If you’re placing bets on whose 3D technology will become the eventual standard, though, you might want to put your money on Panasonic. The company’s 3D demo—which centers on electronic shutter glasses that block vision from one eye, then the other, in rapid succession and timed with the refresh rate of the display to ensure that each eye sees only the image it’s supposed to see—continues to wow virtually everyone who sees it, skeptics included.

Even Sony, long a proponent of using the sort of polarized 3D technology found in commercial cinemas at home, is now supporting the active shutter glasses approach. Not everyone is onboard, though. JVC made waves at CEDIA with the announcement of its GD-463D10 3D LCD Monitor—a $9,000, 46-inch display that not only relies on circular polarized glasses (Need a new pair? Go see Avatar and skip the recycling bin on the way out the door!), but also accepts 3D video in line-by-line or side-by-side format.

Will consumers really go for a $9,000 46-inch TV? That remains to be seen. In fact, it remains to be seen whether a significant number of consumers will go for 3D at all until more content is available. Add to that the fact that the transition to 3D may necessitate all new Blu-ray players and all bets are off.

Digital Projection Total 3D Experience TITAN Reference 1080p 3DFor those looking for an upscale 3D experience in the home before the dust settles, Digital Projection International recently rolled out a turnkey 3D package for the high-end home entertainment market.

Co-developed with Mechdyne (whose name sounds a bit too Terminator-ish for comfort, if you ask me, but until they start building chess-playing robots I say we give them the benefit of the doubt, the Total 3D Experience System, as it's called, centers on either a DPI TITAN or LIGHTNING 1080p 3D projector. 

The system features a high-capacity, high-bandwidth media server, a 3D graphics adapter for gaming and 3D video content, a Blu-ray drive, active shutter glasses and an iPod Touch programmed to control the whole kit and caboodle. The server also comes preloaded with 3D demos, games and movies.


While the industry struggles with the right way to add depth to our visuals, Dolby, Audyssey and (to a more mysterious degree) DTS are working to add height to our surround sound, in the form of additional speakers above (and perhaps to the left and right of) the front main channels. The goal of these new technologies—Pro Logic IIz from Dolby, DSX from Audyssey and Advanced Neo or Neo:X from DTS, eventually—is to add an additional layer of ambience to movies, music and especially games (which will benefit from sound mixed specifically for the additional height channels in the case of Pro Logic IIz).

Both IIz and DSX are available now on a handful of receivers from Denon, Integra, Marantz and Onkyo. Geoff did a feature on all three formats here.

Dolby PLIIz in 7.1 and 9.1 flavors

The interesting question for Home Entertainment readers is when these technologies will start to appear on the Meridians, Lexicons and Anthems of the world. The additional vertical component may be the best thing to happen to sound since the last time Gilbert Gottfried got laryngitis, but if it isn’t available on high-end surround processors, it’s doubtful we’ll see this technology make much of an impact in the custom home theater world. And high-end A/V manufacturers are known more for performance and build quality than they are for adopting bleeding-edge technologies, so don’t be surprised if this trend doesn’t pick up too much steam in our demographic until closer to 2011.  


Runco QuantumColor Q-750i ProjectorOne trend that continues to pick up steam is the increasing use of LEDs in lieu of other light sources. Last year it was as a replacement for fluorescent backlights in LCD TVs; this year, it’s as a replacement for bulbs in projectors, from high- to low-end and everything in between.

Everyone from projectiondesign to Sim2 is getting in on the LED game, and with good reason. Since LEDs merely generate the illumination, not the image itself, they can be used with either DLP projectors, like Digital Projection’s M-Vision Cine LED, or units built on LCD technology, like Runco's Q-750i and Q-750d QuantumColor projectors.

Either way, the benefits of using LEDs are undeniable: longer lifespan, less heat, less noise and the ever-popular green advantages resulting from the lack of mercury and increased energy efficiency.


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