Pre-CES Event: Toshiba @ TAO Nightclub, Prototype 3D TV (no glasses required)

Photo: D. Klein for What's New Dr. Frank?.

 

Two days prior to the official beginning of CES, the What’s New Dr. Frank? Team attended Toshiba’s Pre-CES press event in the Opium Room at TAO Nightclub. Among the sea of fellow press and Toshiba representatives were Toshiba’s latest offerings as well as some products still in development. After fiddling around with their 7” Android tablet, the Thrive, I made my way to the back of the room where they had a prototype 3D television unit. It was so new that it lacked any sort of identification whatsoever: no name, no price point, and no release date.

What it did have was an interesting solution to a common problem plaguing the vanguard of 3D televisions: the issue of multiple viewers trying to watch to same screen. Manufacturers that implement passive or active glasses require that multiple viewers require multiple pairs of glasses. While this allows a degree of flexibility with viewing position, it can end up being costly and ultimately restricts the total number of viewers to the total number of available glasses. The prototype TV at the party was glasses-free 3D, which as the name suggests delivers the 3D effect without the need of special glasses. The big problem here is that there usually are only a select few positions where the effect really “works.” The fix with this unit was to allow the machine to calibrate to the user, not the other way around.

On screen, there were three symbols at the very top spanning the picture that the viewer could use to adjust their position for an optimal viewing experience. The marker in the middle dictated horizontal positioning, meaning a small move to the left or right on your couch or chair of choice. A solid target means that you’re positioned correctly, while an arrow pointing to the left or right means an adjustment in the respective direction. The markers to the left and right of this center indicator tell the user if they are too close or too far from the screen. An empty circle means you’re dead on, while an up or down arrow requires you to move closer or back up, respectively.

It may sound like much, but it only took me about ten seconds tops to get myself situated. The Toshiba rep informed me that there were nine different positions in which someone could get the full effect from the set. For the lazy, the screen also comes with a front facing camera that can be used to automatically calibrate itself to conform to the given seating arrangement. The process involved doing a picture-in-picture maneuver that showed a live capture of the audience viewing it and boxes around the heads of those partaking in the demo. It wasn’t perfect (people still needed to be near three columns shown in the camera shot), but it adjusted well enough to get the best out of the same minute-long clip of the 2009 film, Coraline, that was on repeat.

Fancy effects aside, the unit had a really great, sharp picture. The colors were vibrant and the textures that accompanied them were perfectly vivid. The representative running the booth showed me that the 3D could be switched off in favor of the ever-faithful 2D picture. The clip still looked just as lively, retaining all of the definition found in its 3D incarnation. The demo reel for the 2D picture was particularly nice, showing off the support for 4K content: media definition with nine times the resolution of the 720p standards of yesteryear. I can’t say it wasn’t impressive. I’ll definitely be looking for this again on the show floor on Tuesday.

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