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At CES, Viewers Get Another Dimension

Broadcasters Tout Mobile DTV Progress

Heads of several major station groups, technology vendors, and the top executives of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) last week hailed the rapid development of mobile digital TV technology that lets stations transmit to cellphones and other portable devices.

The gathering, held on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, was adjacent to the Mobile DTV TechZone, an exhibit sponsored by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC). The exhibit showcased a variety of new mobile DTV-capable devices, including cellphones from LG and Samsung, a Dell netbook, and a small bridge device from Korean manufacturer Valups called the Tivit that receives mobile DTV signals and retransmits them to smart phones and laptops through Wi-Fi networking.

Brandon Burgess, Ion Media Networks chairman and CEO, opened the event by reminding that the period from broadcasters' initial desire to create a mobile DTV standard, to such a standard being in place, took all of two years. With such devices already coming to retail, this represents one of the fastest technology introductions ever.

“I'm holding one of the very first mobile DTV-enabled iPhones,” Burgess said. “So I say, 'Yes, we can.'”

NAB CEO Gordon Smith followed with comments tying mobile DTV's development to the swirling controversy over spectrum. Smith said that during his two terms as a Republican Senator from Oregon, he heard several suggestions that traditional broadcasting was outdated. Smith cited mobile DTV as a prime example of why that thinking was false, and thanked the OMVC for its efforts with mobile DTV, asserting that “broadcasting's best days are ahead of it.”

LG Shows Off Connected TVs, Touts 3D

Last week at CES, Korean consumer electronics giant LG showed off new applications for its “connected TVs” that can hook up to a broadband connection to deliver a range of Internet content. The company also talked up the prospects for a line of new 3D HD-capable TVs that it will start selling later this year.

In the wake of its announced new partnership with Internet phone service Skype, LG will integrate Skype's technology into its LG sets and allow consumers to engage in video conferences through the use of a specialized accessory camera.

LG has also formed new content partnerships for its NetCast service with Internet video provider DivX, Google's photo service Picasa and weather provider It demonstrated how its new connected TV will use local weather information from AccuWeather to shift the background view on the TV screen, changing from day to night and from sunny to cloudy depending on actual local conditions.

To address the challenge of connecting these broadband-capable TVs to home networks, when they are often located in a different room from an Ethernet jack, LG introduced two new products—a wireless USB dongle and a wireless set-top box—that can be used to connect the TV to a home network without wires. LG president and CTO Dr. Woo Paik said that the vast majority of new LG TVs will have built-in wireless networking capability.

LG also joined the big buzz at CES over 3D. LG marketing chief Tim Alessi predicted that “2010 will really be the launch pad for 3D.” He added that in addition to new 3D-capable 9500-series sets, the company will also launch a 3D Blu-ray player later this year.

Alessi wouldn't discuss pricing for the 3D sets, which are due out in April, but said that 3D would probably only represent a $300 to $400 premium in a feature-packed high-end set.

Toshiba to Launch High-End 'Cell TV'

After previewing a new high-resolution LCD TV and companion server/set-top at last year's CES show, Toshiba said at CES 2010 that it will sell the high-end “Cell TV” in the U.S. this year, and that it will be capable of converting standard 2D video to 3D HD.

Cell TV leverages Toshiba's proprietary processing technology by incorporating chips previously used in high-end PCs and gaming consoles into a set-top box. The box will function as an HD home server by connecting to a home network through Wireless HD, Wi-Fi and DNLA networking technology. The Cell TV set-top will have 1 terabyte of hard-disk storage, and will include a Blu-ray player.

Cell TV's processing chips will drive Toshiba's Tri-Vector 2D-to-3D conversion technology. Tri-Vector uses proprietary software to analyze 2D frames, estimate the depth of field in each frame and create a separate image for the left and right eye. According to Toshiba VP of marketing Scott Ramirez, this yields a 3D effect that can be viewed with active shutter glasses. “We're going to take anything you watch and you can watch it in 3D,” Ramirez says.

Toshiba wasn't disclosing pricing for the device, but Ramirez has previously said that Cell TV would sell in the $5,000-to-$10,000 range. A Toshiba spokeswoman said the product would likely hit U.S. retail later this year.

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