Intel turns the spotlight on 3D and remote control devices

Genevieve Bell, who heads up a section of Intel’s labs, held an informal round table here in San Francisco and took questions and gave answers to a number of international journos. Bell is an anthropologist and her job is to see what people really want and how they use their digital devices.

We asked her whether Intel had done any research into 3D and how people reacted to the technology, and she had several very interesting things to tell us.

First, she said that the introduction of 3D screens posed a whole number of challenges that haven’t yet been addressed.  An ordinary TV is often watched by a number of people who often chit-chat to each other as part of shared entertainment.  Wearing clunky glasses is likely to inhibit people watching TVs at home and kind of rule out using your laptop at the same time. On the other hand, watching 3D films in a cinema makes a lot more sense because you’re going to be focused watching without necessarily interacting with your neighbour. Unless, that is, you want to snog your boyfriend and girlfriend during the film.

Glasses for 3D TV get lost too, she said. It’s just another thing for people to worry about when basically they just want to watch TV.

She said that the experiment carried out in the UK to show 3D soccer in pubs hadn’t been a great success. Apparently watching 3D while you’re quaffing pints doesn’t necessarily work.  And, interestingly, 3D is no good for a number of sports like golf and basketball, for different reasons. People move fast when they’re playing basketball and this can make some people dizzy as their eyes try to keep up with the action.

There are other challenges too. She said that some actors and actresses may not be suitable for 3D content – actors such as Rudolpj Valentino didn’t transfer very well from silent to sound moves – he, she said, had a squeaky voice and his image as a dashing romantic was somewhat offset by that. The move from silent movies to sound, then to black and white TV, and then to colour TV all involved some actors failing to be suitable for the new technologies. That was likely to happen with 3D content too.

Bell then turned her attention to remote controls. These, she said, had barely changed from when they were first introduced and now that people had multiple devices, things became way too complicated.  In her travels, she had come across someone who had a total of eight remotes, and had to do all sorts of strange things to make sure that using one device didn’t upset all the others. Methods included using tape to prevent some buttons being used, magic marker to circle particular buttons, and in one case a remote control having the equivalent of an instruction manual taped to the back of the remote in case everything went belly up.