Three-dimensional television, once the stuff of futurists and science fiction, is coming to a living room near you. Sony Gulf announced yesterday it would roll out 3D-enabled TVs and game consoles throughout the GCC this year, making it possible to watch movies and play video games that appear three-dimensional with the help of polarised glasses.
"By mid-year, we will be launching 3D-enabled consumer electronic portfolio which covers BRAVIA, PS3, 3D-enabled Blu-Ray disc players," said Osamu Miura, the managing director of Sony Gulf. "People will be able to watch [3D] content because Sony Pictures and PlayStation will be launching 3D software titles within this year." But the 3D experience will not be limited to pre-recorded movies and games. Several broadcasters, including ESPN, which is now available in the region on Al Jazeera's pay-TV package, and Discovery, available on Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), already have 3D programming on their global broadcasts. But Maria Khoury, the director of public relations and publicity for OSN, said there were no plans at the moment to offer 3D broadcasts in the region.
And at yesterday's announcement, several local content providers and broadcasters, including Etisalat's E-Vision, Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) and Al Jazeera expressed interest in offering content in the new format. "Three-dimensional broadcasting and three-dimensional television sets will form the new standard in the world of home entertainment," said Humaid Rashid Sahoo, the chief executive at E-Vision, Etisalat's provider of internet-protocol television. "As specialists in television broadcasting, our network has the ability to provide 3D broadcasting service, which we will launch in a timely manner, depending on the readiness of the market and the availability of appropriate content."
Ahmed al Menhali, the deputy director of broadcast technology at ADMC, which owns and publishes The National, said the company was keen to adopt the technology "at the earliest". "3D TV broadcast is one of the latest developments in the technology of home entertainment. It will have a large impact on the current TV broadcasting standards and transport audiences at home to a new, more animated and interactive ambience."
Three-dimensional viewing was pioneered by the film industry in the 1950s, originally with blue and red glasses. It experienced a brief comeback in the 1970s before falling out of fashion again. Recently, with new technology, the format has seen a resurgence, spurred by the success of the science fiction epic Avatar. Sony has been calculating that its 3D technology will be an industry saviour this year.
"Sony's newly developed proprietary technology enables those 3D compatible BRAVIA TV sets to convert 2D images into simulated 3D content," Mr Miura said. "The TTV detects and displays the focal points of the images to the front so that viewers can feel the depth with the glasses on. However, the effect and the way the viewers feel the depth varies depending on the content." The content that Sony has been relying on most heavily in the 3D realm is sports. The company signed a deal with FIFA to record as many as 25 of the matches from this year's World Cup in South Africa using the company's next-generation 3D cameras.
Mr Miura could not comment on whether viewers in the Middle East would be able to watch the World Cup in 3D, and said discussions were ongoing with E-Vision, OSN and Al Jazeera about what content they wanted to upgrade to 3D. Al Jazeera bought the rights to the 2010 FIFA World Cup from Arab Radio and Television late last year. Al Jazeera's sports department could not be reached for comment. firstname.lastname@example.org