Category Archives: 3D

Sony visor is in-your-face 3D

When Sony showed off its futuristic-looking 3D visor at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, few people thought the company would actually go through with it. Many wrote it off as one of those concept devices that technology companies bring to CES just to get media attention.

Well, nope. Sony has indeed put the visor into production and is currently taking pre-orders. The device officially hits stores in Canada on Nov. 25, although at $800, it’s not much cheaper than a full 3D television.

This is one of those oddities I simply had to try for myself and the folks at Sony were nice enough to lend me one for a week. Firstly, it’s obviously not for everyone. At its price tag, it’s clearly aimed at gadget lovers who get all the latest and greatest stuff, regardless of cost. Sony says the visors is in high demand through pre-orders so far - I’m willing to bet the vast majority of buyers (or the ultimate recipients of said purchase) are probably males between 25 and 40.

The visor is aimed at dudes who live in small condos and who don’t want to disturb their neighbours by playing Call of Duty at wall-shaking volume at 3 in the morning. Similarly, it’s also for dudes who don’t want to infuriate their spouse by doing the same. Trust me, I know.

It comes with a small set-top box that plugs into a PlayStation 3 or other Blu-Ray player. The box acts as an intermediary - the visor plugs into it and you have the option of running another HDMI cable from it to the TV. If you do so, the visor wearer and TV viewer can both see the same thing at the same time. I’m not quite sure why’d you ever want to do this, but it’s an option that’s there anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in 3D, sony


Replicators and holodecks will soon be here

Three-dimensional printing has been getting a considerable amount of media attention lately, particularly over the weekend, when a pair of tinkerers in the UK launched the world’s first “printed” plane.

If you haven’t heard of 3D printing, well, you’re going to hear an awful lot more about it because it’s a technology that is finally starting to mature. 3D printing has been around for at least 20 years, which is just about the right amount of time for people to figure out how to make a technology cheap and easy to use. For most of its early days, though, 3D printing was the exclusive domain of - surprise, surprise - the military and other large industrial concerns.

Basically, the process starts with a 3D computer image, which is then sliced into super-thin layers. The printer then sprays a corresponding super-thin layer of plastic for each slice, going from the bottom up. As the plastic hardens, voila - the 3D image is replicated into a physical 3D object.

Manufacturers have been using such printers for some time to create prototypes. Scientists, toy makers and cellphone designers have all benefited from being able to create their own prototypes in-house rather quickly. While the machines and ink have been expensive, manufacturers have found big savings by cutting the prototype process down to a few days, rather than weeks.

I first encountered 3D printing back in 2008 when I visited Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, where scientists were using it to create parts for their various machines. Despite all the amazing physics work going on there, I was most fascinated by the printers since they seemed to be early versions of the replicators found on Star Trek, which could create any object out of thin air.

After my visit, I talked to some 3D printer makers and found that the technology was just about ready for home use. With the printers and ink coming down quickly in price, it was only going to be a few years until they were affordable for home tinkerers. That reality has arrived, if the guys who built the drone are any indicator.

3D printers are like to be everywhere in a few years. I’d bet on iPhone and Android apps popping up soon that will allow for the simple creation of 3D models. Hopefully, there will still be a large number of manufacturers to choose from so we can avoid the outrageous ink prices brought about by the traditional printing oligopoly.

As amazing as 3D printing and its promise of creating something out of nothing is, though, it’s only a stop-gap measure until the real fun arrives. Microscopic nanobots will ultimately evolve the replicator concept to another Star Trek toy, the Holodeck, where the virtual will become real. These versatile nanobots will be able to change shape, size, colour, texture and even emit light and sound, thereby having the ability to essentially become anything imaginable.

The idea, being developed by molecular engineer J. Storrs Hall, sounds like science-fiction but it’s already a reality. Utility nanobots can already be built, but they’re too big and expensive. Hall, who I spoke to last year, says this concept of “utility fog” will follow the trajectory of all technologies, including 3D printing. That means that 20 years from now, if not sooner, the term “virtual reality” will take on an entirely new meaning.


Posted by on August 3, 2011 in 3D, nanotech


Top tech stories of 2010

I hope everybody had a nice and restful Christmas (even those people who don’t celebrate it). I know I did. It was a welcome break from the madness of the past few months.

Speaking of which, were I still working at the CBC, I’d likely have my hands full right now putting together my top story list of 2010, just like everyone else in the media. I don’t like to feel left out, so I thought I’d compile my own list and present it here. So, with no further ado, here are what I considered to be the 10 most important technology-related stories of the past year.

10. Privacy, privacy, privacy

It seems like every web business got nailed for some sort of privacy violation this year, especially here in Canada where we have a bulldog for a privacy watchdog. Whether it was Facebook and the convoluted system it has for sharing people’s information, or Google accidentally gathering such data with its Street View cars, internet companies really skirted the line of what is considered public and private in 2010. Personally, this isn’t an issue I really cared about that much because I’ve long believed that if you put a piece of information on the internet, you should expect it to be public - and permanent. My feeling is that society’s general view of privacy is changing to reflect this reality and we’ll probably stop caring so much about websites are doing and more about what we’re actually giving them. But there’ll be more on that in my 2011 predictions, coming soon.

9. Antennagate

The media loves to build things up and tear them down, and Apple got a good taste of it this year when it released the iPhone 4 in June. While the device formerly known as the “Jesus Phone” could previously do no wrong, suddenly it was having connection problems thanks to a redesigned antenna. Again, it’s another situation that I found dramatically overblown, but it did ultimately help open the door for competing smartphones - particuarly Android - which is probably a good thing.

8. Video games escape the ghetto

Games have typically been the domain of teen and adult males, but this year they really exploded to a much larger audience. The move actually started in earnest four years ago with the release of the Nintendo Wii, which brought many women and young children into the equation, but 2010 saw both Microsoft and Sony get into the action with the Kinect and Move motion systems, respectively. The duo have only been out a short time but it’s clear the video game market is much bigger than those males, and all the big hardware makers are now going after them. Social games also exploded, with Facebook recently saying that nearly half of its 500 million members log on to the site specifically to play games such as Farmville. Video games have never been bigger and there’s no end in sight to their growth.

7. 3D TV flops - or does it?

Recent reports suggest 3D TV, launched with great fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, have been a big flop, with sales in the low single percentages. That may be true, and the reasons for it are many: people have either recently bought new HD TVs, there’s little 3D content available for them, and people hate wearing the glasses. But, two things are happening: glasses-free technology is improving and all of it is getting cheaper every day. Like I said in January, 3D is likely to soon become a standard feature of all TVs - like the “gaming mode” they all currently have - and will not incur any premium. The media has a habit of pronouncing many technologies dead, but the reality is they often seep into everyday life without our even noticing. Such will be the case with 3D.

6. Ebooks (and tablets) explode

I wrote a little while back about how ebooks were growing exponentially and 2010 was really the year things caught fire. I can’t wait to see what the final numbers will be for the year - I wouldn’t be surprised if ebooks account for as much as 25% of all books sold. The iPad is fuelling at least part of that, and things are really going to get crazy next year once you’ve got a flood of competitors for the device. I’m told there will be up to 80 new tablet computers introduced at CES next week. Ebooks are a key app for these tablets, so sales of them are going to skyrocket even faster next year.

5. Google, Verizon and net neutrality

Google drew a lot of heat in the summer for becoming a “surrender monkey” on net neutrality by proposing a set of rules in conjunction with telecom company Verizon. Those rules were pretty much adopted to the letter by U.S. regulators last week, and it’s certain we haven’t heard the last of it as the proposal must now go through government, where Republicans have vowed to kill it. What was most noteworthy about U.S. efforts to protect free speech and innovation on the innovation is how bogged down and watered down they became once the lobbyists were set loose.

4. Broadband becomes a right

On a related note, a few countries - notably Finland - enshrined access to high-speed internet as a legal right for their citizens while other countries such as Australia moved to build their own publicly-owned access networks. The past year saw some pretty clear ideological lines drawn between those that believe in government having the best interests of the country at heart, and those that think businesses do. As far as broadband and innovation goes, we’ll see in a few years who turns out to be right (I suspect it’ll be the former).

3. The fight for copyright

After a long consultation process across the country, the Canadian government in the summer introduced Bill C-32, the copyright modernization act. Pretty much nobody was happy with it. Entertainment industry lobbyists didn’t like that the bill created a lot of rights for Canadians to copy material and artists didn’t like that there were no new compensation schemes suggested. What really riled most every-day people, though, was a clause that prevents the picking of digital locks placed on devices and content. That means if a record label decides it doesn’t want you to copy your CD onto your iPod, tough noogies. Internationally, the U.S. pushed ahead on getting consensus on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has been characterized as just as restrictive as C-32. One possibility under ACTA is that border guards would be able to search your iPod for pirated music. Yikes. Obviously, both efforts were hugely controversial in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see how they play out in 2011. C-32, at least, has the possibility of dying if an election is called in Canada.

2. Facebook as a social phenomenon

Okay, personally, I still think Facebook will ultimately prove to be fad. Yes, the website makes lots of money and has tons of users, but I just don’t see the real value proposition. Maybe I’m just not among the target users. Regardless, I also can’t remember movies made about Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, much less good ones that will likely garner a few Oscar nominations. While watching The Social Network, one thought kept recurring to me: I can’t believe that a website (and web coding) is the central focus of a movie. Regardless of anything else Facebook is or isn’t, it has propelled technology to the forefront of pop culture like few other things have, and that’s a pretty big accomplishment. More amazing is that people actually went in droves to see a movie that was mostly about coding and litigation.

1. Cell Wars: A New (Wireless) Hope

Like several hundred thousand Canadians, I almost wept when I kissed my old cellphone provider (Rogers-owned Fido) goodbye and said hello to my new one (Mobilicity). I officially shaved $12 off my bill, but more importantly I added a whole ton of value with unlimited data, texting and calling - including North American long distance. Mobilicity is just one of several new independent wireless carriers that have sprung up over the past year - with Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Videotron being the others. In their short existence, they have done wonders in breaking the stranglehold the big three - Bell, Rogers and Telus - have had on Canadians and brought prices down significantly to where they’re almost comparable to what users enjoy in much of the rest of the world. Even the big guys have flinched and are starting to lower their prices or change their terms, so the arrival of real competition is finally having an effect. I want to end my top-10 list on a good note, but I do have to bring up the long-smouldering issue of foreign ownership restrictions, which was one of the biggest bad-news stories of 2010. With the government continuing to waffle on lifting these onerous restrictions, there’s already talk that some of the new entrants - particularly Public Mobile - are in financial trouble. If the ownership rules don’t change quickly, one or more of those new carriers surely won’t be around this time next year.


Porn not relevant to 3D TV adoption

One of the topics that came up during discussion yesterday while I was part of the taping for the BBC’s Digital Planet (which I believe will air Jan. 4) was what sort of effect the porn industry will have on 3D television sales. I’m obviously a believer in adult entertainment having a big influence on the adoption and development of new innovations, but as I said during the talk, I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact on this particular technology.

That’s fairly counter-intuitive given the industry’s reputation for driving new technologies, but the thing to keep in mind is that porn companies only get behind new innovations that will somehow expand or improve their business. Many major new technologies in the past have done exactly that. The VCR, for example, was a huge step forward - for the first time it allowed the consumer to easily enjoy smutty video in the comfort of his or her own home (mostly his), rather than the alternative, which was watching it in some slimy peep show booth in a shady part of town. The internet and smartphones further personalized that capability, so naturally all three technologies were seized upon by porn very quickly.

DVD was a similar story; not that it made the content necessarily more personal, but it was a large improvement in quality. High-definition was more of the same, although its arrival was perhaps not as welcomed by some members of the industry.

3D television is different. It doesn’t offer a heightened level of personalization nor is it a stunning leap forward in quality. If 3D has anything going for it, it’s the gee-whiz factor. When done well, it certainly is cool, but it’s not something viewers can’t live without.

There have been some reports out of Japan that 3D porn is doing well there and that it’s helping to fuel sales of enabled televisions. Perhaps, but the most reliable reports seem to indicate that 3D sets are selling poorly overall. In writing about them over the past year and seeing readers’ reactions, it’s pretty clear there are several reasons for this: nobody wants to wear the glasses, many people recently just bought expensive new HDTVs, and there’s a serious lack of 3D content out there.

As luck would have it, I also interviewed Steven Hirsch yesterday, the head of Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult entertainment companies around. We talked about a bunch of stuff for a story I’m working on, but I did ask him what he thought about 3D TV. Here’s what he said:

Traditionally people like to take their glasses off when they watch an adult film rather than put them on. Until we get to the point where we have 3D without glasses you’re not going to see the industry really get behind 3D. That’s part of the problem. I think that’s coming within the next several years, the technology is really moving quickly. Once that happens, ultimately I expect all movies to be shot in 3D.

I’ll be heading to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas again this January, where I’m expecting to see some advancements in these sorts of glasses-free 3D TVs. I’ve heard that some manufacturers have managed to get them up in size to around 20 inches. That means we might only be a year or two away from proper-sized sets that don’t require glasses. As it stands though, it sure doesn’t look like porn is doing much to help this technology along.


Posted by on December 21, 2010 in 3D, CES, sex, vivid


3D porn in Imax? Not bloody likely

People compete for the strangest things: there’s an awful lot of chest thumping going on right now between smut producers over who can rightfully claim to have filmed the first 3D porn movie.

Last week, a group of Hong Kong film makers said they were on track to do so with their production, 3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, which will apparently be released in May. Some reporters, including those with wire service AFP, fell for it and reported it as the first.

However, we learned back in May that European porn makers had gotten there first with Kama-Sutra, a movie that was filmed in honest-to-goodness 3D, as opposed to post-processed to include the effect (it’s therefore more like Avatar than Alice in Wonderland or Clash of the Titans).

Not to be outdone, the Hong Kong producers are beating the drum again and claiming that their production will not only be 3D, it will also be the first 3D porn film done in Imax. I have trouble believing this, given the higher expense of filming in the bigger format. Consider that the only directors who can afford to film in Imax are the likes of Christopher Nolan, who can pretty much offset the higher costs through the massive returns the non-Imax version of their films are guaranteed to bring in.

A porn film in Imax, on the other hand, would be shown on very few Imax screens - if any at all - which is why I’m inclined to think this news is of the poppycock variety.

In any event, any claims of creating the world’s first 3D porn movie by filmmakers today is wrong. Not only have producers such as Pink Visual been creating stereoscopic porn since last year, there were also plenty of films produced in the seventies during the previous wave of 3D movies.

Perhaps the most disturbing news to come out of the 3D porn camp, however, is word that director Tinto Brass is doing a 3D remake of his 1979 film Caligula. Great Caesar’s ghost, as if that movie wasn’t horrific enough!

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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in 3D, Pink Visual, sex


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