Single-Projector 3D Arrives with DLP

  • There is flurry of digital signage activity on the show floor this week at InfoComm in Orlando, but one of the most interesting new applications in evidence here is one that uses projection, not flat panels, and it’s an application that has jumped from the consumer side to the commercial AV side of the fence: inexpensive 3D, using just one DLP projector. 3D is going to be big in the education market, but the possibilities for the digital signage market should not be ignored.
  • LCD projection does not have fast enough image processing to do 120Hz time-sequential 3D, i.e. it can not put up two images, for left and right eye, fast enough in sequence to do 3D using just one projector. And while big-gun 3D-ready DLP projectors (most of them 1080P) have been available from other manufacturers for the past couple years–Barco, Christie, Digital Projection, projectiondesign– new at this year’s InfoComm are lower-cost 120Hz time-sequential 3D compatible data projectors that will ship later this year, from various manufacturers in the DLP camp: BenQ, Mitsubishi, Optoma, Sharp, Viewsonic (and Infocus with an update of a unit previously released).
  • All of these 3D-ready data projectors are “3D-ready” because Texas Instruments has begun offering a firmware upgrade to its customers that enables 120Hz/60Hz full-res image to each eye. Hence DLP projector manufacturers are coming to market with products that are competitive in the education market in particular where 3D has many applications in teaching, and in digital signage where increasingly projection is supplanting flat panels when bigger screen sizes are need. All users need: a PC with a standard graphics card that can output 60Hz, or a 120Hz graphics card and of course 3D content from a PC (or, coming down the road, 3D Blu-ray).
  • Also, the higher end of 3D with DLP projection is in evidence here at InfoComm. The possibilities in the museum market, and the university market are great, with systems that provide large screen, high resolution imagery for the most demanding application.
  • Norway’s projectiondesign is using InfoComm 09 to demonstrate a broad range of 3D stereoscopic projection solutions. A year ago projectiondesign, of Norway, made headlines with the debut of the F10 AS3D active stereoscopic projector at InfoComm 2008 in Las Vegas, and they were demonstrating the unit at InfoComm this week in Orlando.
  • “We are seeing more and more end-users in the commercial space realizing that 3D can benefit their productivity and the accuracy of their work. This is happening not just in traditional applications such as industrial and military, but in new markets that we are already working with like digital signage, gaming design, medical, education, and VFX and post production,” said Anders Løkke, International Marketing and Communications Manager at projectiondesign.
  • At the high brightness, high resolution end, Digital Projection also has a big presence at InfoComm, in the single-chip DLP category. They are showing the iVision 30 sx+ 3D w/ 1.75-2.25:1 zoom lens, and the iVision 30 sx+ W-3D w/ 1.0:1 fixed lens. These are already shipping and being used in the field. DP is also launching TITAN and LIGHTNING WUXGA 3D models (plus other 3D models) at the show as well, so they have a 3D line-up of around 25 distinct displays as of the show opening.
  • Behind the more recent move to market, with 3D capable data projectors in particular, is TI’s new “DLP Link”, a new system that syncs–using a photo diode in the glasses that is reading the screen–the stereo switching to the content (instead of using an IR emitter to achieve this). This is now possible with DLP because 120Hz is fast enough that you can take down time in the processing, and use that extra speed, or bandwidth, to put in an extra layer to communicate back to the glasses with the sync signal. And for the education market, shutter glasses are now readily available from a variety of makers like XpanD, or in a bundled deal from RealD. (Some users may still want to use an emitter, which is still possible, as DLP is sync-agnostic.)
  • Fun, and the curiosity of students and teachers will drive 3D in the education market. And the possibilities for 3D in digital signage are huge. Those are big drivers, and they represent real growth opportunity for the providers with the vision to offer new display options for their customers.