Tag: 3D

Nintendo's 3DS is a case of déjà vu, déjà entendu

Nintendo had 15 years to perfect glasses-free 3D with the release of its 3DS.

15 years to get the marketing right, get the technology right, get the range of launch titles right, and to, crucially, stop giving people migraines. Users of the 3DS are still getting migraines, just like they did with the Virtual Boy – Nintendo’s doomed first foray into handheld 3D console gaming.

Granted, the 3DS is a giant leap from 1995’s Virtual Boy. For a start, the 3DS is quite nice to look at, as long as you can hold the puke down, compared to the awful visuals of the mid nineties 3D effort.

But there is certainly a feeling that Nintendo hasn’t learned from its past mistakes. Similarly, in the mid nineties, Nintendo put the Virtual Boy on a hype machine that originally crashed and burned, because no one was buying it – and those who were got dizzy and nauseous. It does sound familiar.

Nintendo’s boss Satoru Iwata apologised to existing 3DS users who shelled out on the console before the drastic price drop.  “Never before has Nintendo chosen to issue such a dramatic price drop less than six months after a system release,” Iwata said. There were price drops with the Virtual Boy before it was discontinued, thanks to abysmal sales.

The problem with 3D is there’s no ethical way to test how kids are going to react to the technology.

Putting it out for market testing and ending the session with a room full of sick children won’t go down very well with parents. Nintendo fanboys suggesting TechEye or any other publication is part of a media ploy to discredit the system should read testimony from children themselves.

There are quotes from the BBC’s children’s news channel, Newsround’s website. Roberta, 12, says: “I didn’t but my friend said she felt dizzy and couldn’t see properly,” while Tahina, 10, says: “If you play for too long you WILL get a headache.” Ama, 7, says: “I do not like it, it makes you dizzy! But it does wear off.” 

Like a tame Russian roulette with Street Fighter and headaches.

It’s a pity, because advocates of the console will agree developers are implementing 3D in an innovative way. Ocarina of Time has had rave reviews for those who can actually enjoy the 3D.

Unfortunately, it looks like history is repeating itself – but we’d be happy to see Nintendo do it right and prove us wrong. Meanwhile we eagerly await Atari’s Jaguar II.  

Nintendo puts 3DS in bargain bin

Nintendo has announced that it will be flogging its 3DS devices on the cheap after cutting its profit forecast for the year.

Despite the 3DS’ release to much fanfare, it looked destined for the bargain bin from the start. Nintendo’s profits have been hit due to, in part, woeful sales of the gaming system it wanted as the big seller.

The Japanese company announced that it had recorded losses of $327 million in the three months up until the end of June, with sales dropping 50 percent.

Now Nintendo has been forced to slash its profit forecast for the year, falling 82 percent to $257 million, down from $1.4 billion.

Annual sales targets were hit by 18 percent, dropping to $11.5 billion.

Nintendo will now have to make an extremely embarrassing price drop to recoup losses made on the product .

In fact, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata has even issued a grovelling apology to customers who have already paid full whack for the device.

“Never in Nintendo’s history have we lowered prices to such an extent, less than half a year since the product launch,” he said in a statement.

“But we have judged that unless we move decisively now, there is a high possibility that we will not see many of our customers enjoying a Nintendo 3DS.”

Nintendo has sold just 710,000 units in the three months up to June, included in the total sales tally of 4.32 million, according to the New York Times.

This was roughly the figure that Nintendo had expected to sell in the first weeks of its release.

But it seems that its portable 3D device was not able to set the world alight in the way other Nintendo products, such as the Wii, have in the past.

It is the glasses-free 3D technology which drew stinging criticism.

As we reported there were huge concerns from parents and even their children over its affect on eye sight, and the nausea that followed a session.  For some, the 3DS is uncomfortable to use almost from the get-go.

It is something of an indictment of 3D technology.

Its various guises in gaming, home viewing and cinema certainly point to the technology being heaped onto the consumer.

The expectation that the technology will serve in itself as a gimmick – rather than as a way of giving a new way to enjoy innovative content – is arguably proving itself.

It was only recently that DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg blamed lazy Hollywood’s greed on driving cinema goers away in their droves.

It would be unfair to say that Nintendo has been lazy in its approach to the 3DS, but it does show that the public will not keep on handing over cash purely to be dazzled for five minutes by 3D functionality, followed by half an hour of a migraine. 

In terms of the TV market there is a feeling that 3D is becoming more difficult to market as a unique selling point. It’s not doing the trick like HD or flat panels have in the past.

Of course there are other problems which have hit the 3DS, such as a lack of titles, but we can’t help but feel the jarring use of the much vaunted 3D struggled to match the hype.

The 3DS will retail in the US from $249.99 to $169.99.

TV industry tries to plug shipment gap with 3D

Expectations for global TV shipments have been cut by three percent as demand for LCD screens in developed nations drops.

DisplaySearch lowered overall unit shipments expectations to 252 million units. With many having already upgraded to flat panel sets from CRT, there’s less interest in spending the cash on upgrades.

This means that in North America, growth of four percent in 2010 will slow to just a two percent shipment increase.  In Western Europe, there will be a 1.5 percent reduction in shipments.

The most significant decline will be in Japan, where government incentive-led demand saw massive growth over the past few years.  Analaysts are now expecting a 40 percent decline, though a move to a digital-only broadcast could help.

The canny TV industry has a few tricks up its sleeves to cajole consumers in developed countries to part with their money.

Of course, we’re talking about 3D.

Despite a lack of interest from much of the public, it’s clear there will be no shortfall in attempts to foist the technology on consumers.

Whether the technology is sufficiently developed or not is irrelevant, the cashcow that is 3D will continue increasingly large shipment numbers – though, now, there is less emphasis on 3D as the sole selling point.

DisplaySearch thinks there is “some consumer confusion” about 3D. We guess it stems from why anyone should part with large wads of cash for an overly expensive set, only to wear annoying glasses to watch below-standard content.

Nevertheless, 3D sets are expected to account for about 20 million shipments this year, continuing into an expected rise of 100 million in 2015. The TV industry is making new 3D tellies the default as they all fight for market share.

This will eventually mean that around 84 percent of big TVs, 40 inches or over, will feature 3D as standard by 2015.

Of the total shipments this year 3D will account for 8 percent.

Meanwhile, LED backlights are expected to account for roughly 46 percent of LCD shipments.

Such developments are likely to keep the LCD TV prices relatively stable over 2011, though a seven percent drop year-on-year is expected.

LCD will stay well ahead in the TV market – increasing its share to 84 percent of the overall market.

Shipments will jump from 192 million last year to 210 million this year. However, this is lower than some forecasts.

While LCD TVs will continue to dominate the market, there is still some room for plasma screens, though it continues to shrink. This is largely in the higher screen sizes, with focus shifting from the 40-49 inch size to over 50 inches.

The seven percent share of the market will drop under five percent by 2015, though plasma screens will continue to account for about half of 50 inch screens up until this point.

Newcomer OLED will attempt to push its way into the 40 inch segment, but with few manufacturers involved it will remain exorbitantly priced, only growing to about two percent of that segment by 2015.

Emerging regions are expected to see strong growth as LCD screens remain popular.

China, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Middle East/Africa will average around 17 percent growth per year. Comparatively developed regions will, on average, see no growth.

This will mean that China will eventually become the world’s biggest flat panel TV market, with over 46 million units shipped this year.

Photonic crystals change the shape of things to come

Scientists from the University of Illinois claim to have shown off the first optoelectronically active 3D photonic crystal.

While other scientists have made 3D photonic crystals,  they haven’t been able to make units that can direct light but they’re not electronically active. The Illinois team say that its crystal can turn electricity to light, and light to electricity. That could lead to applications including solar cells and lasers.

3D Photonics

The scientists made a template of dense tiny spheres and deposited gallium arsenide (GaAs) to fill the holes between the spheres. The GaAs grows as one crystal using epitaxy. After the template has been filled, the researchers removed the spheres, leaving a porous 3D single crystal semiconductor.

The researchers built a working 3D photonic crystal LED. The next target for them is to apply a similar method using different semiconductor materials.

Eric Nelson, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, worked with Professor Paul Braun. Nelson said that the device geometry can be changed to create a unit with whatever properties people want. “It really opens up a whole new area of research into extremely efficient or novel energy devices,” he said. “With our approach to fabrication photonic crystals, there’s a lot of potential to optimise electronic and optical properties simultaneously.”

DreamWorks chief says Hollywood peddling crap 3D

3D took a knock with the head of DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, said the industry is on the rocks.

Katzenberg reckons the main reason for a recent lack of interest in the format, where ticket sales are dropping, is thanks to some of the 3D turkeys released post-Avatar, driven by Hollywood greed.

Who could forget Street Dance 3D, or the seminal Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience?

Katzenberg, who has turned out hits like Shrek and Madagascar with the DreamWorks studio,  believes that the industry has gone for a “low end crappy version” of 3D.

The industry has managed to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” – with a once excited audience totally bored of substandard and expensive 3D.

Though he predicts a resurgence for the future, Katzenberg forecasts it could be 10-15 years before glasses free arrives in the movie theatre. It’ll be in “our lifetimes,” anyway.

Some predict glasses free TV will arrive in around five years. But arguably similar has happened in the TV industry, with manufacturers ramping up shipments despite much in the way of content.

There are many hurdles for successful implementation at the moment.

Bob Raikes, display expert at Meko, believes that 3D will have to overcome certain problems before it becomes widely used.

“3D is hard to do well, as Hollywood has found,” he told TechEye.

Raikes tells us that there are four main areas that are driving 3D, in movies, TV, games and user generated content.

“All content areas face challenges, and movies are very important for the pervasiveness of 3D. It takes time to adapt to the new technology and Hollywood has perhaps not been successful in the post-Avatar world.

“But this doesn’t change the fact that 3D will become pervasive in TVs.”

Raikes also believes a wait for glasses-free 3D will not have a severe effect on its popularity.

“Manufacturers are going to do 3D with glasses anyway, and this is not likely to be a problem for viewers as 3D is likely to stay an ‘event’ experience where it is not watched continually, for example, 3D film at the cinema or a cup final at home.”

3D panel plot works – bamboozles you and me

As the more sceptical among us have always maintained, 3D in the home has been a way for panel manufacturers to bump up their bottom line and turn lacklustre TV sales back into a cash-cow.

The US, where selling in has become difficult for other sectors in the wide-reaching technology industry, is enjoying a flat panel TV price hike sequentially. As 3D LCD becomes common in more and more sets, there have been three consecutive months of price increases since April.

Compare that to four of decline and manufacturers must be cheering for the stability. Although the gains are slight, maintaining stability is incredibly important to keep the stock sheets balanced. 

Prices for LCD TVs rose by $5 to $1,050, while the average price for flat-panel TVs in June was up $10 to $1,133. Plasma stabilised at $1,590, according to the latest figures from analysts at IHS iSuppli

Despite display analysts themselves saying 3D as it is now is mostly a novelty in the home – which you’re unlikely to use more than, say, once a week at most – people are buying the sets. Mostly because they have to. Cleverly, TV manufacturers are slow-dripping the technology into all of their newest products, so if you’re a new buyer you’ve got a 3D telly whether you want it or not.

Again, 3D helps prop up every corner of the industry – from the panel makers who put the stuff together right up to film studios and Blu-ray retailers. Sony earns a big chunk from 3D because its fingers are in every pie.

Within 3D itself, there is a mini price war brewing between active and passive 3D televisions.

Basically, active 3D is the expensive sort with pricey eye-wear and passive is cheaper to buy but the resolution handles only 540 lines per eye.

Expected price drops for active’s lazy little brother means it should win out, compared to the dominance active holds now. 

LG's smartphone sales take a dive

LG Electronics, formerly Lucky Goldstar, has announced that its sales targets will take a dive as it fails to establish itself among the big players in the smartphone market.

While rival Samsung’s impressive Galaxy sales figures are helping it through some poor results, LG Electronics has struggled to make a splash in the market.

The South Korean company cut its smartphone sales forecast to 24 million for this year, down from 30 million, reports Reuters.

In the first half of the year LG flogged 10 million of the top end phones, though this fell way short of the estimated 19 million smartphones to be sold – in the second quarter alone.

Furthermore, the relatively small size of its operations has meant that demand for cheaper phones has not lead to success in the low end market.

Overall, its handset forecasts were lowered from 150 million units to 114 million for the year, said LG handset boss, Park Jong-seok.

And with local rival Samsung managing to sell three million in just 55 days the heat is turning up on LG to stay in the market.

Of course, nothing cries out pricey ‘top end’ status like that trend for stereoscopic 3D capabilities. The Optimus 3D hopes to give its ailing smartphone division a boost.

Unfortunately for LG, industry watchers agree that the company’s priorities lie in being first-to-market on gimmicks, rather than sustainable business.

Tellingly, it is claiming to be the first phone manufacturer to incorporate 3D technology into a handset with the latest release. A lofty boast considering Hitachi has released one already.

In a press release, Jong-seok outlined his vision of 3D as the “natural step in portable entertainment”, and talking up the Gameloft 3D titles which “must-be-seen-to-be-believed”.

As a goodwill gesture, we will take him at his word and wait to see if his predictions ring true.

TSMC challenges Intel to 3-D semis

TSMC should be able to match Intel when it comes to shipping semiconductors with 3-D interconnects. 

Despite Intel announcing the technology, it did not think that it could get the 3-D transistors in the shops before 2012.

But according to a report circulated by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), TSMC’s projected delivery of 3-D chips matches that of Intel.

The report hints that there is a race on between TSMC and Chipzilla to produce the first 3-D chips.

However, according to Electronic Times, the technologies being talked about are different. TSMC and others have been developing technology for chips with 3-D interconnect for ages. It is called Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) and creates vertical connections that pass through die to connect different layers of a chip within the same package.

Chipzilla’s tri-gates are actually 3-D transistors and are known as a FinFets, because the silicon channel is akin to a fin jutting up from the semiconductor substrate.

TAITRA claims that the new technology is expected to override a number of difficulties posed by traditional “planar” transistors, which can only move electrons across two dimensions.

It quoted Shang-Yi Chiang, senior vice president for R&D at TSMC saying that his outfit has been working closely with chip packagers and providers of design auto software to commercialize 3-D chip technology. 

Sony reshuffles management after embarrassing hacks

Sony has finally got around to dealing with some of the management problems which let hackers  hit the outfit in one of the world’s largest hacks.

According to Reuters, Sony said it would reshuffle the management of its video games unit, two months after the company was hit by a massive hacking attack.

The attack forced the network to close for a month and revealed how loose the security on Sony’s network really was. Servers had not been patched and some didn’t even have any security at all, which let the hackers to take the personal details of PS3 users.

It is clear that Sony thinks that it needs to put the outfit under a bit of a tighter management leash and it was expected that someone was going to have to recite a haiku, surrounded by cherry blossom, while savaging themselves with a sharp bit of cutlery.

Current Sony Computer Entertainment Chairman Akira Sato will retire at the end of August.

Kazuo Hirai, the electronics giant’s second-in-command, who also currently serves as the president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment has become the chairman of the unit, presumably with the remit to knock a few heads together.

Welsh-born Andrew House will take over as the unit’s new president and group CEO in September

So far these are the first changes that Sony has announced since the hacks. 

Protecting content made Sony hackers' target

Sony supremo Howard Stringer has been complaining that his rigorous defence of content had resulted in his outfit becoming the target of hackers.

According to Reuters, Stringer told a shareholder meeting that it was targeted by hackers because it tried to protect its intellectual property.

The moan was part of a sidestep to a call from some shareholders that he fall on his sword because of the ease that the hackers had in taking out Sony.

No one has admitted to the hacking attack in April, in which details of 77 million PlayStation videogame user accounts were leaked. It was most likely a reaction against the way that Sony was treating its customers as part of a clamp down on unauthorised modifications to PS3 game consoles.

Sony blocked the ability of PS3 users to run Linux and then when this was bypassed with a mod, sued the modders into next week.

Stringer told shareholders that Sony’s games were its corporate assets, and there are those that don’t want Sony to protect them, they want everything to be free.

It was clear that the Stringer did not carry all the shareholders with him with his tub thumping rhetoric. Another shareholder asked him to step down to allow the company to make a fresh start after what is believed to be the world’s biggest ever Internet security breach. The shareholders comments were greeted with applause.

Sony also has to face questions as to why a large chunk of its servers were not protected by anything passing for security. A court case filed in the United States said that Sony fired employees in a unit responsible for network security two weeks before the hacking incident.

Meanwhile the outfit had top quality security on its own corporate information while failing to do the same for its customers’ data, the class action claimed.