The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: 3D

LG to debut 84-inch 'ultra definition' 4K TV at CES

LG's 84-inch 4K 3D TV

LG Electronics is set to debut an 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

And yes, the new TV set will be a 3-D TV as well. LG is calling the new 4K display "ultra definition" or "UD," to signal that this set can output a higher resolution image than current high-definition televisions.

So what is 4K exactly? It's the resolution that many believe will be the next step in high-definition standards for TVs and Web video. Today's current HD TV sets are either 1080p or 720p -- each number indicating the amount of vertical pixel lines of resolution the HD sets can handle.

As the name suggests, 4K resolution images have 4,000 lines of resolution, but this time the name refrences horizontal resolution. Many of today's top digital cameras used by filmmakers are shooting in 4K.

"LG is pushing the limits of home entertainment innovation with this 3D UD TV," said Havis Kwon, the president and CEO of LG's home entertainment division, in a statement.

LG 84-inch 3-D TV will actually offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which by some standards is considered worthy of being called 4K.

The huge TV will also run apps using LG's Smart TV software, which offers more than 1,200 apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and Major League Baseball, and it will make use of LG's motion-sensing TV Magic Remote, which allows users to operate the TV using voice recognition or motion gestures.

The so-called UD TV will debut alongside two other massive LG sets at CES: a 55-inch organic-LED TV and a 72-inch LED-backlit 3-D TV. LG hasn't yet offered prices or details on when these TV will make it to store shelves.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Photo: A model next to LG Electronic's 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television. Credit: LG Electronics

LG to debut 'world's largest' Organic-LED and 3D LED TVs at CES


LG is bringing some big TVs to January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Specifically, the world's largest Organic-LED TV, at 55 inches, and the world's largest 3D LED TV with a screen size of 72 inches.

The new television sets may or may not be considered affordable, but they surely will be large and probably will attract attention at the show to Korea's second-largest electronics maker, behind rival Samsung.

"Our objective has always been to actively define and lead emerging display technology markets," Sang Beom Han, chief executive and executive vice president of LG Display, told the Times of India newspaper about the massive new Organic-LED, or OLED, TV set that will debut at CES.

"Although OLED technology is seen as the future of TV display, the technology has been limited to smaller display sizes and by high costs, until now. LG Display's 55-inch OLED TV panel has overcome these barriers," Han told the newspaper.

The website Engadget reported that a prototype of LG's new OLED set came in at just 5-millimeters thick. LG hasn't yet said how much its new large-screen TVs will cost, but big screens don't come cheap, especially when they make use of OLED technology. As noted by the website Gizmodo, in 2009, LG introduced a a 15-inch OLED TV priced at $3,000.

Sony is also currently selling a wearable TV headset that contains two OLED displays that are just 0.7 inch big for $800.

[Updated, Dec. 28, 8:59 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorecctly stated that LG released a 15-inch OLED TV for $2,500. That TV was priced at 3,000, as reported by the website Gizmodo. This post has been updated to correct this error.]


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Image: LG's 72-inch LZ9700 3D LED-backlit television. Credit: LG

First look: Sony's 3-D TV worn on your head [Video]

Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony is making a bet that it can succeed where others have failed -- TVs strapped to your head.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has begun selling the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, a viewfinder-looking gadget that sells for $799.99 and will arrive to retailers next week.

The HMZ-T1 is the product of a prototype head-mounted personal 3-D TV shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. When I first saw the prototype at CES, visions of Cyclops from the X-Men and Geordi La Forge from Star Trek were the first things that popped into my mind.

Quickly after that, I thought of the many failed attempts to sell consumers personal TVs and 3-D viewers over the years. Much of the mainstream has not shown a want or need for something like Nintendo's Virtual Boy.

On Thursday, Sony spokesman Aaron Levine stopped by the Los Angeles Times to give us a bit of hands-on time with the HMZ-T1.

I tried it out for about 20 minutes and I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed watching a 3-D trailer for the new "Amazing Spider-Man" movie (the trailer was on a Blu-ray disc) and playing Gran Turismo 5 in 3-D on the PlayStation 3 into which the headset was plugged.

Frankly, the idea of having a small TV set in front of my eyes was one I thought I wouldn't enjoy at all. But, in my brief time with the TMZ-1, the experience was novel, enjoyable and not bothersome as I expected. The picture was clear, the 3-D was crisp and colors were bright. I'm not a big fan of 3-D TVs -- the glasses can be uncomfortable and the picture often looks dim. So far, this was a different experience altogether.

A few colleagues who also gave the headset a shot weren't as impressed and described a slight feeling of "car sickness" from playing Gran Turismo with the headset on. This isn't a product for everyone based on experience alone, not to mention that $800 price tag.

I'll have to reserve any final judgments on the HMZ-T1 before Sony sends over a review unit and I can put the device through its paces, watch a full-length film or two and play more PlayStation games.

It should be noted though, that the HMZ-T1 can display 2-D and 3-D video in 720p high-definition and features two tiny 0.7-inch OLED screens (one for each eye) and a set of headphones pumping audio in 5.1 surround sound into your ears.

Sony formally launched the HMZ-T1 on Thursday, just before Levine stopped by The Times, not at one of its Sony Style stores but at a local Southern California retailer, Video and Audio Center, in Lawndale.

Video and Audio Center spokesman Tom Campbell said it spawned a line of more than 100 "looky loos and early adopters."

Neither Sony officials nor Campbell would say just how many of the headsets have been sold so far, but the first HMZ-T1 did sell at Video and Audio Center on Thursday.

Sony wouldn't leave the HMZ-T1 with us, but a review unit is coming soon, so stay tuned into the Technology blog for a deeper look at the Personal 3D Viewer.

Until then, feel free to sound off in the comments and share your impressions so far.

Do you think this is the type of product that will ever catch on with consumers? Is $800 a fair price for a such a new device? Would you be willing to try and watch TV, a movie or play video games on such a headset, particularly for an extended period of time?

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer wearable TV set. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

YouTube tests out converting video clips to 3-D

YouTube is testing a new feature to convert uploaded videos into 3-D content with a click of a button.

Starting Wednesday, users can click "Edit Info" on a video's watch page and select "3D Video" to convert an already uploaded or fresh two-dimension clip into 3-D, YouTube said in a blog post. Unfortunately, users will still need 3-D glasses to view the clips on most devices.

The popular video-sharing site has been experimenting with adding 3-D capabilities for some time. However, they've been hampered because few people own cameras capable of filming in 3-D, and despite a big push from electronics companies, adoption of 3-D devices has been disappointing.

YouTube's conversion tool skips the camera, simulating depth by measuring color and motion and combining two sets of images (one original, one created by YouTube) to mimic the way a human eye perceives depth in the real world (the company pointed out that the best results still require a 3-D camera).

Also announced today: Verified YouTube users with a "clean track record" will be allowed to upload videos longer than 15 minutes.


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Photo: Archbishop Desmond Tutu tries 3-D glasses at a movie premiere in Cape Town, South Africa, in July. Credit: Rodger Bosch / AFP/Getty images

Sony to launch PlayStation Vita in Japan in December

Sony Sony Worldwide Studios chief Shuhei Yoshida demonstrates PlayStation Vita
Sony will launch its next-generation handheld gaming console, the PlayStation Vita, in Japan on Dec. 17 and debut it in other countries next year, reports say.

The Vita, expected to be a strong competitor to Nintendo's 3DS gaming console, will reportedly bypass the holiday shopping season in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world, missing out on potentially big sales.

At a Wednesday news conference, Hiroshi Kawano, head of Sony's Japanese game unit, said the device will be "packed with every possible function," according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Indeed, the Vita will contain some fancy specs, including a 5-inch touch-screen display and a touch pad on the rear for controlling games with finger motions, cameras in the front and back (features the Nintendo DS line has had for a while) and wireless capability.

The Vita will also have functions outside of gaming. Kawano said the console will have a music player, its own Web browser, photo and video apps and access to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, according to Dow Jones Newswires. 

The console will be priced at $249 for the Wi-Fi only model and $300 for the 3G/Wi-Fi version.

The Vita could help prop up Sony's gaming business, which was dealt a serious setback this year when hackers dug their way into its PlayStation Network, compromising the personal data of millions of gamers and forcing the Japanese company to temporarily shutter its online gaming service. The consumer electronics giant estimated the cost of repairing the hacker damage at nearly $172 million, only about $30 million less than the damage suffered from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March.

By releasing the Vita after the holiday season, Sony will also miss a chance to speed past Nintendo as the leader in sales of portable gaming consoles. Despite fanfare surrounding the device, Nintendo's 3DS console has yet to catch on with consumers in a big way, selling 4.3 million units worldwide so far. Last year, Nintendo sold 27 million units of the previous generations of DS consoles. On Aug. 12, Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS to $169.99 from $249.99.

Handheld gaming consoles are facing serious competition as people increasingly play games and watch entertainment designed for smart phones, tablet computers and social networks.


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Photo: Sony Worldwide Studios chief Shuhei Yoshida demonstrates the company's new PlayStation Vita during a speech at the Tokyo Game Show on Thursday. Credit: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press

NASA launches new Web tool to explore solar system


Want to explore the solar system and follow NASA space missions in real time?

NASA is giving you the chance to through a new interactive Web-based tool called Eyes on the Solar System.

The space agency said that the tool combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft as they explore the cosmos.

"You are now free to move about the solar system," Blaine Baggett, a manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, said in a statement. “See what NASA's spacecraft see -- and where they are right now -- all without leaving your computer.”

By using a keyboard and mouse, online users can zip through space and explore anything that catches their interest. For example, NASA in August launched a probe called June that will explore Jupiter.

Users can follow the Juno spacecraft and look over its “shoulder” to see what it sees -- and even look ahead to find out what’s ahead on Juno's five-year journey. Users' point of view can alternate from faraway to close-up, and switch from 2-D to 3-D with the aid of 3-D glasses.

Users can also travel back in time because Eyes on the Solar System has NASA data dating from 1950.

Download the tool here. A free browser plug-in, available at the site, is required to run it.



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Image: Screen grab of "Eyes on the Solar System" via NASA.

Toshiba set to debut glasses-free 3-D TV in December

Toshiba is finally taking the glasses out of watching 3-D television.

The electronics company announced the December debut of a large screen 3-D TV in Germany priced at 7,999 euros (approximately $11,400), tech blog Engadget reported.

The 55-inch television, called the 55ZL2, will simultaneously deliver slightly different images to a viewer's left and right eye, which are then joined in the brain to create the 3-D effect, according to a statement from Toshiba. In order for multiple viewers to watch together, the TV will have both a face tracking system and nine different optimal angles to sit for good picture quality. 

3-D televisions were hailed last year as the must-have electronic items when they were rolling out last year, but sales have not lived up to expectations, with many shoppers complaining about the required glasses. Perhaps this will be the beginning of 3-D, sans eyewear?


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Photo: Toshiba 3-D TV without glasses. Credit: Engadget

World's first 3-D printed airplane takes to the skies [Video]

Forget about high-powered drills, metal-bending press brakes and high-pressure die casting -- all you really need to build an airplane is a 21st century printer.

A small group of aeronautical engineers at the University of Southampton sent the world's first 3-D printed aircraft into the skies above Britain, according to a report by New Scientist magazine.

Watch in New Scientist's video above as the model plane with a 6.5-foot wingspan takes to the skies with a peculiar screech and an abrupt burst of energy.

The airframe was designed on a computer then printed on a 3-D printer. If you don’t know how that works, New Scientist fills you in:

To do this, the 3-D printer first slices up an object's computerised design into hundreds of easily printable layers. Each layer is then “printed" by training a laser beam on a bed of polyamide plastic, stainless steel or titanium powder -– depending on the object being created -– tracing out the entire 2-D shape required for that layer. The laser's heat fuses the particles together at their boundaries. Once each layer is complete, more powder is scattered over it and the process repeated until a complete artefact is produced.

The designers wanted the little aircraft “to be lightweight and strong, as it would be built in just four parts -– the main fuselage and rudder fins, the nose cone and two outer wings.”

They named it Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft, or SULSA. According to the engineers, it is “the world’s first all printed aircraft -- the resulting aircraft can be fully assembled from its component parts to flight ready in just 10 minutes without the use of any tools whatsoever.”

Impressive, considering building an aircraft of any size is typically labor-intensive and utilizes components that are custom-machined and tooled. The New Scientist article says the engineers are "hoping to show how 3-D printing will revolutionise the economics of aircraft design."

According to their website, the small SULSA plane is capable of reaching speeds up to 90 mph with an endurance of about 30 minutes.


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-- W.J. Hennigan

Nintendo 3DS price dropping to $170

Nintendo is dropping the price of its latest handheld videogame system, the 3DS, to $169.99, as the device has failed so far to match the sales power of its predecessors -- the DS, DS Lite and DSi.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0147e20a1961970b-250wiThe drop from the 3DS launch price of $249.99 will go into effect Aug. 12, Nintendo said.

So, unless you like paying a higher price for the things you buy, it might be a good call to just wait until August for a 3DS purchase.

Nintendo said that in the United States, it has sold more than 830,000 of the 3DS -- which does not require 3-D glasses to play 3-D videogames and watch 3-D movies -- since its March 27 launch.

Those who have already bought a 3DS might not be too happy about the price drop so soon, which is why Nintendo is planning to give them a bit of a thank you gift.

"These Nintendo 3DS owners represent some of Nintendo's most loyal customers, and Nintendo is rewarding them for getting in on the action early with 20 free downloadable games from the Nintendo eShop," Nintendo said.

But there's a bit of a hitch.

The early adopters have to use "a wireless broadband Internet signal to connect to the Nintendo eShop at least once before 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 11" to get the free games, which Nintendo is calling its "Nintendo 3DS Ambassador program." Half the free games will be available in September, the other half by the end of the year.

Nintendo said Thursday that it has sold more than 4 million 3DS systems worldwide since the device launched in February in Japan.

Last year, Nintendo sold more than 27 million DS consoles.

"We feel the price change and several prominent software releases by the end of the year will definitely change the situation," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told Reuters and other reporters in Osaka, Japan.

Iwata was referencing new high-profile titles for the 3DS set to launch this year, such as new Super Mario and Mario Kart games. So far, the biggest release has been a 3-D remake of the classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

News of the price drop also comes as Nintendo posted its first-ever quarterly operating loss, a loss of 37.7 billion yen, or about $48.4 million, on lower-than-expected sales of DS systems and the Wii home gaming console, Reuters said.


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Photo: Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata holds a 3DS prototype at the E3 convention last year. Credit: Alex Pham / Los Angeles Times

Is 2011 the year of the 3-D TV? Yes, report says

Television makers are betting that 2011 will be the year of the 3-D TV.

Despite lackluster sales and slow consumer adoption, research firm DisplaySearch optimistically predicted that 3-D sets would comprise about 12% of the overall market for LCD panels by year-end.

That number is partly based on growth thus far: About 1.9 million LCD panels with 3-D capability -- or 3.9% of the overall LCD television market -- shipped in the first three months of the year, DisplaySearch said Tuesday.

That's not a huge chunk of the TV market, but still an improvement over last year, when only 1.6% panels shipped were equipped to be viewed in the third dimension.

When 3-D TVs began rolling out last year amid much hype, television makers hailed them as the hottest advancement since high definition, and the industry expected consumers to eagerly snatch them up.

That never came to pass. Battered by the recession, consumers were put off by high prices and the need to sport glasses to see anything broadcast in 3-D.

Part of the recent upswing in sales, however slight, is a result of price reductions and improvements in the look, comfort and quality of the glasses, DisplaySearch said.

More challenges lay ahead, "such as inadequate 3-D content, the presence of flicker or crosstalk that can cause dizziness ... and confusion about different 3-D technologies," said David Hsieh, vice president of the greater China market for DisplaySearch.

However, Hsieh said, "LCD panel makers have aggressive plans to expand 3-D LCD TV panel shipments this year, as they believe 2011 will be the year that 3-D TV’s potential is realized."

Previous predictions for 3-D sales have always taken a glasses-half-full outlook despite a slow year for the technology. DisplaySearch is no different. By early next year, the company predicts, almost 21% of LCD panels will be 3-D-enabled.


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Photo: South Korean children studying Buddhism wear glasses to watch 3-D TV as they visit an IT exhibition hall in Seoul on May 9. Credit: Jung Yeon-Je /AFP/Getty Images




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