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3D TV: A New Japan-Korean Battleground

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

A new battleground has opened between Korean and Japanese technology companies to bring affordable 3DTV technologies and products to mainstream consumers.

Many in the entertainment, media and information technology industries see 3DTV as the next big consumer product that would hit the mainstream market in a similar way that LCD and Plasma TV products changed the course of home entertainment during the past few years. Manufacturers are turning to 3D technologies as a differentiating factor for their new products.

Problems experienced during early 3DTV development are slowly being resolved; from hardware issues to 3D content, affordable commercial 3DTVs could become mainstream consumer products in the next couple of years – and Japan and Korea are right in the middle, competing with each other to make this happen.

The Allure of 3DTV Technologies

Shipments of 3DTV units are nothing but amazing, with an expected 4.2 million units going out in 2010, which will triple and quadruple by 2011 and 2012, respectively. The successes of 3D movies has captured the minds and hearts of consumers worldwide and many could want the same kind of technology in the comfort of their own homes. However, there are several issues with 3DTV that manufacturers worldwide must resolve first before the technology is generally accepted by the viewing masses.

First is the issue on standards for resolution and 3D formats. There are differences in standards that must be worked out before an eventual mass rollout would take place. Second is the issue on the need to use 3D eyewear together with the 3DTV. It would be cost-effective for manufacturers to shoulder this in order to accommodate viewers with their purchases and the issue of the use of the eyewear interoperably among brands is another concern.

Another concern is potential side effects associated with the use of 3D glasses such as dizziness and disorientation. Eyewear-free 3DTV would take several more years before it can be released commercially. In the meantime, manufacturers have to standardize this area to resolve related issues with its use.

Despite these concerns related with the use of 3DTV, the market outlook continues to look very promising.

Historical Glimpse in the Competitive Relationship between Japan and Korea

Japan and Korea have always maintained a special relationship with each other, both favorably -- and in some dark pages of history, not so favorably. It was in October 1998 however, when Japan’s Prime Minister Keizo Obu-chi and South Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung finally signed the Joint Declaration of the New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership for the 21st Century, putting Japan and Korea on a path to a free trade agreement -- a desti-nation that still seems some years away.

This declaration solidified the two nations’ partnership and economic relationship, promoting reconciliation, friendship and cooperation between the two countries in a wide range of areas – including technology.

Coming from alternative perspectives, Japan and Korea have transformed themselves through the integration of effective economic development that sustained their growth throughout the decades – and are looking to continue to do so in the coming years as evident in their competitive relationship in technological development.

3DTV Development: A Brewing Battle Right from the Start

Japan and Korea have been at the forefront since technologies for stereoscopic 3D High Definition television systems were still in the developmental stage. NHKof Japan conducted tests to address the problems associated with stereoscopy, with the goal of achieving ease of viewing while maintaining a good sensation of reality. From here, discussions on how the future of 3DTV systems were followed through, particularly in developing autostereoscopic, holographic and integral-imaging systems for 3D cameras and wide screen display systems.

On the other side of the coin is Korea’s venture into 3DTV development, particularly in later broadcasting ex-periments including the 2002 FIFAWorld Cup broadcast as part of a 3D-HDTV project. The project involved the set-up of 10 demo rooms containing a 300 inch screen. Different stereoscopic cameras and 3D processing tech-niques were used during these experiments, which was claimed to have been seen by more than 571,000 visitors, each wearing polarizing glasses as they watched the broadcasts.

Just recently, Korea became the first to use terrestrial or over-the-air means to broadcast high definition 3D content and will eventually offer 3D video-on-demand content for the general public.

Financing 3DTV Development: A Won versus Yen Showdown

3DTV development does not lack support from the governments of these two nations. In fact, the government of the Republic of Korea is willing to invest up to $9.3 million, or equivalent to 11.3 billion South Korean Won to support the development of 3DTV technologies. These funds will go to the development of sophisticated depth cameras and video processing equipment able to handle 4Ktechnology. 4Kmeans a pixel resolution of 4,096 x 2,160 which is four times sharper and clearer than the 2,048 x 1,080 2k-level images used in movie theaters.

The development of such technologies is seen by South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy as vital to setting Korea’s competitive edge in the global high-end television market. Consumer demand would always move towards higher definition images on their TV screens, which the 4K-level resolution would be able to provide. At the same time, the development of depth cameras will eventually pave the way for the creation of 3DTVs that would not require the use of special eyewear or 3D glasses for viewing.

Japan on the other hand does not want to be left behind as it is ready to put in billions of dollars in the development of holographic or Holo-TV’s. NHKis the company at the forefront of this development and it has recently invested £2.8 billion or over 376 billion yen into this project. The holo-TV will make use of lasers to project a series of images that can be viewed from all angles without the need to use 3D eyewear. Japan is so confident with this project that it already made the offer to broadcast the 2022 FIFAWorld Cup in high-definition holographic 3D images should Japan be selected as the host for the said event. With such technologies, viewers from around the world can watch the matches as if they were there themselves: able to watch every detail of each scene and able to hear all sorts of sounds from the referee’s whistle to reactions from the crowds.

The Race to Bring 3DTV Mainstream

The race is on as to who would bring commercial 3DTV technologies into the homes of consumers worldwide. South Korea appears to lead the way as the Korean Communication Commission announced that the country is now ready to do 3DTV broadcasts, with the South Korean CJ HelloVision channel leading the way by offering video-on-demand services. Another Korean Satellite TV provider, SkyLife is set to air 3D broadcasts in Korean with initial offerings on sporting events, and will also offer video-on-demand services for consumers.

Not to be left out, Japan’s Sony Corporation is hot on the heels of its Korean competitors by releasing the Bravia 3DTVs, allowing viewers to watch the 2010 World Cup in full high definition 3D broadcasts. Thousands of fans enjoyed watching the games through a jumbo Sony LCD screen set up at the Saitama Stadium in Japan.

As the competition between these two nations in bringing commercial 3DTV into the mainstream intensifies in the next couple of years, the public is left with gaining the full advantage. Prices of these 3DTVs will continue to reduce to affordable commercial levels, and this would trigger larger market acceptance the world over.

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