Set-Tops Get 3D-Savvy

Motorola is adding 3DTV
smarts into its latest-generation
DCX line of cable set-tops.

The vendor has developed a
software upgrade for the DCX that
can automatically reformat onscreen
graphics in 3D, as well as
detect 3D content so that subscribers
don’t have to toggle their 3DTV
sets between 2D and 3D mode.

Such enhancements aren’t
technically required to deliver
the 3D signals to the home — for
example, Comcast, Cox Communications,
Cablevision Systems
and other operators delivered
the commercial-free 3D telecast
of The Masters produced by
ESPN without any upgrades necessary.
Because no new hardware
is required in the video-delivery
chain, analysts do not expect
3DTV to generate a windfall for
cable-equipment vendors in the
way that HD has.

However, the features Motorola
is adding to the DCX platform
should make tuning in to 3DTV
less of a headache for subscribers.

“This is an important announcement,”
said a top cable-
technology executive, who
requested anonymity because
he was not authorized to comment
on behalf of his company.
“These weren’t necessary to deliver
the 3D signals to the home
… but they will make it a better
user experience.”

When the 3D-enabled DCX detects
3D content, the set-top automatically
reformats all on-screen
text and graphics to match the incoming
3D format so they can be
correctly displayed by the 3DTV
set. Accessing a two-dimensional
on-screen guide while watching
3D content can be disorienting
and lead to headaches, according
to industry experts.

Motorola noted that the feature
also maintains the “visual
integrity” of emergency broadcast
messages, closed captioning
and other on-screen information
while 3D video is playing.

To date, Motorola has shown
the 3D-rendering feature working
with Motorola-native guides, as
well as those based on CableLabs’
OpenCable Application Platform.

On the output side, the DCX
software reads the 3D information
included in HDMI 1.4a and then
passes that to a 3D-compatible TV.
That version of the HDMI cable
specification adds two mandatory
formats for 3D broadcast content:
side-by-side horizontal and
top-and-bottom, which refer to
techniques for delivering left- and
right-eye images.

“The development of this 3D
software enhancement gives
our service provider customers a
straightforward solution for deploying
high-quality 3DTV services
today using their existing video delivery
infrastructure,” John Burke,
senior vice president with the Motorola
Mobile Devices and Home
business, said in a statement.

Motorola has provided early
releases of the 3D software to
service providers for evaluation.
Full deployment to subscribers
depends on individual operators’
plans. The company said it
will work with customers to add
3D support to other set-top families
besides the DCX line, which
launched in 2008.