Is 3DTV in the Cloud?

Friend and colleague Jon Peddie is one of the leading analysts and experts in the area of graphics processing and related display concepts. In his blog yesterday, he mused about the role of cloud computing in various applications. He pointed out that lots of server farms have idle CPU cycles, and just as we rely on power plants as a central source of electrical power, there are applications where we might rely on the cloud for computing power. He cites some interesting examples, such as when you use a smart phone to look up something on the Web, or when DreamWorks rents processing time from HP when it needs to render a movie-length animation.

His entry got me thinking about a near-term application that could benefit immensely from CPU cycles available in the cloud. I believe that 3DTV is going to happen (I wrote a research piece for GigaOM Pro that turned me from skeptic to believer), but the key determinant of when this will happen is limited by software (content) not hardware (delivery systems and displays). Yes, Hollywood is putting out about 30 to 40 hours of new 3D content each year, but that’s nowhere near enough. The critical path is through the back catalogs of 2D television and movie content, and there are companies that can extract depth information using cues available in 2D images (and sequences of 2D images) using motion parallax, overlapping, texture analysis, perspective, etc.

If someone developed an automated conversion engine that is “good enough”, and could just pour all the episodes of “Lost” and “Gray’s Anatomy” and “Law and Order” into a big bucket, as well as the “Die Hard”, “Alien”, and “Lethal Weapon” movies, and let the cloud churn on them as time permits, we could have enough content for a 24/7 3DTV channel in high definition in a short time. And unlike Mark Cuban’s efforts in the early days of HDTV, the content would be things that people actually would want to watch. (In Cuban’s defense, he couldn’t simply add pixels to standard definition content the way we can now add 3D to existing HD content.)

This is a killer app for the cloud, and would hasten the adoption of 3DTV.