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XpanD Exec Looks To A Simpler 3D World

4/04/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — Following the announcement that XpanD
3D and Panasonic have begun licensing a new standard
for active-shutter 3D glasses, TWICE sat
down with XpanD chief strategy officer Ami Dror to discuss
the standard and its implications on the 3D entertainment
market.

TWICE: How did you get this coalition together?

Ami Dror: Most of the same companies behind the
original HDMI standard are behind the M-3DI standard.
The licensing starts [immediately] for the founding partners,
and we expect other big-name companies to join
very soon and start licensing the technology. The driving
forces behind it are very strong, and it will make everybody’s
life a little easier.

TWICE: This is an active-shutter standard only?

Dror: We are naturally trying to combat the low-quality
3DTVs that we see in the passive world. We are trying
to show a technical standard that is also a standard of
high quality. M-3DI licensing will do two things — it will
provide the licensed technology but there will also be
test centers [one in the United States and one in Asia]
so there is an inherent quality requirement. They will test
every product, whether it’s eyewear, a TV, a PC, a projector
... everything that carries the 3-DMI logo will have an
assured quality level.

TWICE: You said you are expecting people to also
use these glasses in movie theaters. Does that mean
you expect to see more active-shutter projectors in theaters?

Dror: We already have 4,000 cinemas around the
world using XpanD active-shutter technology. It’s still a
small market in the U.S. but if you go China, Japan and
Western Europe, the majority of cinemas use active-shutter
projection. We definitely expect a movement within
cinemas in the U.S. into active-shutter because if you
look at the cinema business model right now, someone
is spending about $1 every time they go to a cinema
and get a pair of passive glasses and they get trashed or
they are recycled and had to be cleaned. So if you don’t
have active-shutter 3DTV in your home, you can rent a
pair at the cinema for the same dollar, but if you do have
3DTV, and we think more and more consumers will, then
you can bring your own glasses and avoid the hassle and
cleanliness concerns.

The current crop of active-shutter glasses use oneway
communication — the glasses communicate to the
TV. Now we have moved on to two-way communication
technology where the TV or cinema projector can feed
information to the glasses and the glasses can feed information
back. You can tweak your personal preferences,
such as transition time and dark time to optimize the 3D
experience. That’s something that can only be done with
active-shutter glasses.

TWICE: Do you expect your licensees to make their
own glasses or will you OEM?

Dror: Both. We already OEM for many of our partners,
and we would like to OEM for all of them but it’s not an
important point. We want our partners to be able to produce
the highest-quality 3D experience possible, and
that is the important point.

When you demo a 3DTV for five or 10 minutes, quality
is not all that important — your experience is limited by definition. But if you want to sit for two hours in front of a
display and watch “Avatar” or a sporting event, if the 3D
is not optimal, you will suffer, literally suffer from physical
discomfort. We really want to educate consumers that
active-shutter is high quality and that quality is vital to the
3D experience. Look at sunglasses — you can buy a pair
of sunglasses for $5 but a large percentage of the population
chooses to buy sunglasses for a couple hundred
dollars, based on quality and comfort. Active vs. passive
is a similar example.

TWICE: Do you expect passive 3D to fade away?

Dror: No, not at all. It’s a nice way to enter the market.
Some people don’t really like 3D or they may only want
to watch 3D for a special event, the big game, maybe
the Super Bowl in 2013, the occasional movie. There is
clearly a market for passive on the low end, but for me,
devoting three hours to a 3D experience demands higher
quality. With passive you are cutting the resolution of the
picture in half. You’re actually watching SD quality, just to
get 3D. With active-shutter you’re watching FullHD 3D
content. That’s a huge difference.

TWICE: What are the licensing terms? Is it expensive
to license 3-DMI?

Dror: No, the cost of licensing is very small, on the level
of HDMI, a few cents per unit. We don’t anticipate that
this technology will add anything to the cost of a finished
product. But this is not a profit center. This is a group
of companies who care about the user experience, who
want to make things simpler for the consumer. That’s the
only goal here, that, and educating the consumer about
the superior quality of active-shutter 3D. That way we
grow the whole pie and eventually everybody can make
money.

TWICE: You’re obviously missing a few key players in
the 3D market, namely Samsung and Sony. Don’t you
really need them onboard to make this work.?

Dror: Definitely. Simply put, I expect them to join. By
the way, we’re also missing some other companies, like
Sharp for example. But if you look historically at licensing
initiatives, this is really not a standard in the classic sense
of the word. Standards are developed by committees.
This a de facto standard because it’s the first one on the
market, and historically with companies that develop de
facto standards — like Panasonic with Blu-ray and HDMI
— really drive the process and other companies typically
join them as soon as they see it is working.

What I find most interesting about 3-DMI is that the
Chinese companies were almost the first ones to join.
Changhong is the second-largest supplier of TVs in the
world. I think it goes back to the fact that when the Japanese
and Chinese engineers first went to a cinema two
years ago to see a 3D film, they experienced it in activeshutter.
Being engineers they recognize quality and it’s
what they know.

Look, when you were used to only watching SD, you
were fine, perfectly satisfied. But as soon as you started
watching HD and got used to that, watching SD again
wasn’t so satisfying. For those guys, to watch 3D in lower-
quality passive was not an option.

TWICE: What do you expect will happen with LG?
While they’re pushing passive now they are also one of
the leading suppliers of plasma screens that use activeshutter
.

Dror: With LG, they have about a 25 percent share
in LCD and that will almost definitely stay passive. With
plasma to use passive, it’s ridiculous, it’s like having a
Ferrari and driving it 10 miles per hour. But if you look at
LG, they are using passive as an entry and position their
active sets on the high end. They want a position in both
markets and we respect that.

What’s interesting to me is that 3D is breathing new
life into plasma. Plasma sets are getting better, getting
smaller, offering features that didn’t exist until recently.
And the you look to future and you go into OLED, then
active becomes even more important. Jim Cameron has
already said that “Avatar 2” is going to be shot 60 frames
per second. Hopefully, one day OLED will fulfill the promise
of superfast refresh rates and at that point, using passive
makes no sense.

The market right now is still young, we are still educating,
and our vision for growing the 3D pie as a whole
relies on a quality experience for the user. We hope that
by having all these companies working together we can
disseminate and organize the information better and eliminate
so much of the confusion and misinformation about 3D that exists right now.

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