The future of television: 3D today, 4D tomorrow

Even though 3D television is only starting to enter the mainstream, 4D entertainment is already being touted as the industry's next big thing
 Toshiba 55ZL2 3D TV  3D television  4DX cinema experience

Now that the holiday season is upon us, Manufacturing Digital is revisiting some of 2011's most popular stories. So sit back and enjoy reading the past year's biggest news.

At first it seemed like a passing fad; however, 3D television looks set to stick around for years to come as consumer electronics manufacturers continue to invest huge amounts of money in developing the latest cutting edge technology. While some remain sceptical over its everyday use, 3D televisions are fast becoming the flagship products for several big names. However, in a rapidly evolving market and industry, a new generation of 4D televisions are already being predicted, as much like 3D entertainment, 4D is starting to gain momentum in various worldwide cinemas. Taking all this into account, Manufacturing Digital takes a look at the future of television: will 3D entertainment be adopted by the mainstream, or will the introduction of 4D change the industry once again?


The development of 3D entertainment seems to change daily, with manufacturers looking to gain a cutting edge by developing a television, laptop or even smartphone device which offers something new and different. However, much like VHS and Blu-ray, two media formats which were adopted as the industry standard – as opposed to Betamax video cassettes and HD DVDs, respectively – 3D looks set to receive mainstream support from the industry’s biggest manufacturers. Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony have agreed upon a 'Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative' which will create an industry standard for 3D glasses. Currently, most 3D televisions require the use of active shutter glasses in order to embrace the full 3D experience. However, up until recently, 3D glasses have been brand specific, meaning one pair of Sony glasses would work with the same make of television, but they wouldn’t work on say a Samsung. Jurack Chae, Vice President of the Research and Develop Team at Samsung's Visual Display Business said the initiative “will help further drive consumer adoption and understanding of active 3D - the technology that provides the clearest and most immersive 3D experience available.”


While this may be an indication that 3D glasses are here to stay, some of the industry’s biggest names have been busy developing TV technology which doesn’t require any additional equipment. The technology has already been showcased in the Nintendo 3DS and various smartphone offerings including the LG Optimus, but what about television? Sony and Toshiba are currently leading the way, with the latter recently unveiling a 55-inch glasses-free television at 2011 IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. Set to be released later this year, Toshiba’s 55LZ2 set features the latest autostereoscopic technology, essential for glasses-free 3D entertainment. It works by sending the viewer two different images, as each eye is capable of seeing different depths. By placing a parallax barrier in front of a standard LCD screen, images can be split and directed into each eye. However, this in turn creates two different pictures and therefore reduces quality, a major stumbling block for the glasses-free revolution. The viewer is also required to sit in a specific position to receive the correct images. A multi-view parallax could solve this problem, but image resolution would suffer even further as a result. Although the Toshiba 55LZ2 features face recognition technology which can detect the viewer’s position and adjust images accordingly to enable the best 3D experience possible, it almost provides as big of a headache as wearing specialist glasses. Consumers wishing to experience 3D entertainment in the comfort of their own home are then presented with the dilemma of putting up with wearing glasses or constantly having to shift around the living room while watching potentially poor quality images. Toshiba is clearly confident that its 55LZ2 set can rectify these issues; however, with a reported price tag of $6,500 (£4,000) it seems to be a long way away from mainstream adoption. What’s more, television channels and programme producers aren’t creating much 3D content as of yet, so widespread viewing is somewhat restricted.


While television manufacturers continue to develop 3D technology, the next wave of visual entertainment is already on the way in the form of 4D cinema. Combining 3D technology with physical effects, 4D cinema provides the audience with the most interactive film going experience yet. Korean-based CJ 4DPlex are pioneers of this fully immersive world and are aiming to attract film lovers with its 4DX cinemas. "4DX theatres are equipped with high-technology motion seats that move in perfect sync with on-screen action," says CJ 4DPlex. "You will be able to experience special effects such as wind, fog, lightning, and scents that enhance what you see on the screen. Movie going is no longer just a simple viewing, but an all encompassing experience." Alongside building 4D cinemas in South Korea, CJ 4DPlex has established joint ventures in China and Mexico, is busy converting premises in Thailand, and has opened a programming lab in Los Angeles. “With the opening of the 4DX programming lab, we believe this will be the start to further developing our business into the homeland of movies, the United States,” said Andy Park, CEO of CJ 4DPlex. Depending on the success in the States, CJ 4DPlex could expand operations into Europe and who knows, we could start to see 3D television with sensory effects in the near future.


3D entertainment is clearly at the forefront of television manufacturer’s future ideas and thoughts. There are still issues and stumbling blocks relating to 3D glasses and autostereoscopic technology; however, television’s biggest names are making positive strides forward to try and make this form of entertainment a mainstream success. While 3D remains an industry buzzword, the potential rise of 4D cinema and film cannot be ignored. The installation of necessary equipment may be a distant dream for domestic use, but film lovers and telly addicts have seemingly got a lot to look forward to.  

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