CES: Sony Talks Up 3D Amid Grim Numbers

If CES had a theme this year, the consensus of those in attendance in Las Vegas seems to fall on the side of 3D television—which several exhibitors seemed to suggest is closer to arriving on retailers’ shelves (in one form or another) than anyone thinks. And, yes, special glasses are still required.

Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, the CES keynoter, spent much of his time in the spotlight talking up 3D video technology, which he predicted will soon be a standard feature of the entertainment industry—notably motion pictures (especially of the digitally animated variety, to begin with) and TV content.

Stringer showed 3D clips of the Pixar animated feature film “Cars,” as well as some action footage from this year’s Orange Bowl. The Sony demo tapped into a 3D system from RealD, based in Beverly Hills, Calif. Most of RealD’s venues, thus far, are movie theaters in the United States and several other countries.

Sony’s optimism over 3D as perhaps the next-big-thing for both movie and TV consumers apparently comes at a financially challenging time for the firm. Sony could suffer an operating loss of more than $1 billion due to sluggish sales in 2008 (and a stronger yen in Japan), according to Reuters, which reported on Jan. 12 that it would be Sony’s first such loss in 14 years. (No official word at deadline from Sony itself.)

Sony also sponsored a 3D HD broadcast of the BCS college football championship game the first night of CES (Jan. 8) for an invitation-only crowd at the Paris Hotel on the Strip. The demo reportedly had some technical glitches early on, but recovered in the second half of play. The 3D presentation was produced by Fox, which used 3D HD production equipment from 3ality Digital.

Beyond Vegas, the game also was shown in 3D in more than 80 commercial movie houses throughout the United States with no reported technical problems.

On the HD television front, Sony also announced at CES that its Bravia line of 1080p models will soon begin offering Internet connectivity as a standard feature. Right now the optional add-on costs an additional $250 or more.

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