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LONDON: BSkyB continues plowing toward 3DTV, with a goal to offer it by the end of the year. Digital Spyreports that the chief Sky engineer said recently the plan was still on track to transmit 3D video content via the system’s existing HD infrastructure and set-top boxes.

“We have the luxury to be able to test and trial 3D," said Johns. "Our aim is to refine 3D techniques and TV production and build a content library over the coming year,” Chris Johns told the Spy.

Sky builds its own set-tops, having bought manufacturer Armstrad, for $254 million nearly two years ago. U.K.-based Armstrad made about one-third of Sky’s set-tops at that point. The satcaster slashed the price of its HD set-tops from around $212 to near $71 in January in an aggressive push for HD subscribers. The company had around 600,000 HD subscribers out of its total of 9 million as of last fall.

Sky has already tested the service in London. The service will require spectacles, which researchers in the United States recently identified as just a “nuisance,” rather than an impediment, to the potential adoption of 3DTV. Of 750 HDTV owners surveyed by Quixel Research, about half said they expected 3DTV displays to be retail ready within a couple of years.

Content is a different ballgame, however, particularly in the current economic environment, where TV networks looking to cut costs rather than ad features. Live 3D simulcasts of sporting events have been transmitted to theaters capable of displaying the effect, but none were broadcast on TV. The post-Super Bowl episode of NBC’s “Chuck” was the most recent 3D offering on the tube. The NBA All-Star Game was shot in 3D two years ago; the Rose Parade before that.

No full 3DTV deployments have been announced in the United States. TVB contributor Mark Schubin discusses previous 3DTV iterations, and possibly why it didn’t catch on, in “3D or Not3D, That Is: The Question.”

3DTV has been gaining more attention in the last year, however, and was prominently featured at IBC in Amsterdam in September. Dreamworks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg appeared in a live 3D interview done from Lost Angeles. The studio honcho predicted all movies eventually would be produced in 3D, though only six percent of the world’s 100,000 movie screens can display 3D.

Meanwhile London’s Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications demonstrated gesture-controlled 3DTV at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany earlier this month. The technology, iPoint, integrates with displays without the need for glasses or data gloves. Fraunhofer is also working on a glasses-free 3DTV display.

The Digital TV Group, a British industry association, is opening the a “consultation” into 3DTV in the United Kingdom later this month. It will ask its 125 members for feedback on the technical feasibility of 3DTV.

“Some industry observers regard 3DTV as a natural, evolutionary next step for high-definition television,” said DTG Director General Richard Lindsay-Davies. “However, numerous challenges exist across the value chain, from image acquisition, storage and post-production, to distribution, reception and display. These challenges need to be understood and overcome in order to make 3DTV a feasible and viable consumer proposition.” – Deborah D. McAdams