3D TV Service Could Debut This Year

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Consider this your warning: Ryan Seacrest could be jumping out of your television sooner than you think. Three-dimensional television service, typically discussed as a "sometime in the future" type of technology, is now being targeted for a 2009 rollout in the United Kingdom. A British communications provider says it's already testing a 3D TV delivery system and could be ready to offer the protocol to the public within a matter of months. Could the U.S. be far behind?

3D TV Goal

The provider, Sky, made the revelation at an annual summit by the Digital TV Group in London. "Our aim is to refine 3D techniques and TV production and build a content library over the coming year," Sky Chief Engineer Chris Johns explained.

Sky started testing its 3D TV technology last year and has broadcast several sporting events using the technology. The events were shot on two side-by-side cameras, and then merged together to create the three-dimensional effect. Viewers still needed special polarized glasses to see the action in 3D.

Device Delay

The real problem now lies in the devices: Even if the service is available, regular TVs won't be able to show the three-dimensional images. While 3D displays were a hot commodity at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in January--Panasonic showed off a 103-inch plasma set capable of showing customized 3D Blu-ray movies, and LG talked about a 3D chip set coming to its screens in the future--moving from the convention floor to the living room is anything but an overnight process.

Consider, for example, adoption of the current non-3D line of HDTVs: Though the devices have been available for years, less than a quarter of American households had a high-definition television at the end of 2008, according to data compiled by Nielsen. The analysis found that despite impressive growth rates, only 23.3 percent of American homes owned a high-def set as of November 30, 2008.

When it comes to high-definition movies, Blu-ray players are rapidly gaining momentum, too, with disc prices dropping to as low as $10 and widespread adoption predicted within the current year. Still, the industry has yet to agree upon a standard protocol for 3D content within the medium, creating another roadblock that must be overcome before 3D TVs could gain mainstream market appeal.

Once those issues are addressed, though, it appears the broadcast side of the equation may be ready to go. In the meantime, you can always look at the newly created 3D baseball cards and yearn.

This story, "3D TV Service Could Debut This Year" was originally published by PCWorld.

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