Yesterday, I had the pleasure of discussing HDTV and related topics with David Gewirtz of ZDNet, which he captured on video. We covered a wide range of topics, including OLED HDTVs, 3DTV, screen sizes, Smart TVs, and “direct LED” TVs. The video runs almost a full hour and was made during a Skype video call. (David has invested a lot of time and effort to develop a pretty sophisticated “Skype Studio” for recording interviews like this, and he gets some impressive results.)
So here’s the video if you want to hear more about my latest thoughts about buying HDTVs. If you or someone you know are thinking about getting a new set, you’ll probably find some helpful information here.
Conventional wisdom has it that television remains a group activity. We are rapidly being assimilated by our personal mobile devices, and I often see two people together who are both busy texting or Facebooking or whatever on their smartphones. Then I read a blog entry by some DisplaySearch analysts that describe a new “smart dual view” technology from Samsung.
All this does is take a standard stereoscopic 3DTV, and set the shutter glasses so that both eyes see one frame at a time. This lets you have two people in the same room watching two different programs at the same time. The article doesn’t mention that each person would also need to be wearing headphones so that they only hear the soundtrack for their program.
This isn’t all that new. It’s really just a variation of the scheme that let video gamers see their player’s view in a full screen, without being able to “peek” at what their opponent is seeing. But I’m concerned about the idea of using it to “duplex” video content in the living room. Why bother with the big screen at all? For less money, you can each buy your own screen and then retire to your own personal corner or cave to watch whatever you want. No more fighting over the remote. No more negotiating about how we’ll watch one of “your” shows and then watch one of “my” shows. And no more having to talk to each other while you skip over the commercials.
I get it. Samsung is grasping at straws to find new ways to market the 3DTV technology until we get enough 3D content to make consumers want it for its original purpose. But I really don’t think that isolating people even more is the right solution.
My good friend, colleague, and sometimes co-author M. David Stone alerted me to a product that he recently reviewed for PC Magazine: the SmartCrystal Pro from Volfoni. This is a device that can turn any 3D-capable front projector into one that uses passive glasses for $1,500 (street price). Inexpensive 3D projectors require you to use bulky shutter glasses, but the SmartCrystal Pro lets you wear the same inexpensive passive glasses that you wear at your local cinema.
So how does it perform this magic? It is actually a “polarizing modulator.” That’s fancy talk for a device that can change the polarization of the light coming out of the projector. You place the SmartCrystal Pro about one to two inches from the projector lens, so that the light fills the window in the device. To get the 3D sync signal, you can connect it either to a VESA port on the projector, or if it is a DLP model, you can use a separate power block to access the DLP-Link signal.
One drawback is that you’ll also have to upgrade to a silver screen, which preserves the polarization of the light from the projector better than a standard screen can. Figure on another $1,000 or so for a 92″ diagonal screen. However, if you want to avoid paying for the expensive active glasses (and eliminate the hassle of keeping them charged), then the SmartCrystal Pro could be just what you need.