To say that Panasonic's press conference at IFA this year was 3D-centric would be a fairly sizeable understatement.
The Japanese company launched not only the world's smallest/world's first 42-inch 3D TV (TX-P42VT20 and TX-P42GT20), but also the world's first consumer AVCHD 3D camcorder (the DMC-SDT750) and a host of other 3D-related product ranges including 3D home cinema systems, 3D TVs, 3D glasses and 3D Blu-ray players.
The press conference itself was full to the rafters with 3D TVs, with the world's tech press huddled round each of them, transfixed.
The invite to the press conference itself mentioned '3D' 15 times in five paragraphs and as expected the conference started with a bit of market analysis, a sprinkling of eco-friendly innovations, before 3D took over for the duration.
The message was clear, and it was thus: 3D 3D 3D 3D 3D!
The hype was very similar last year, but 3D has matured since then and Panasonic was keen to press home that 3D really is about to find its way into the homes of ordinary people.
"Our goal is to develop a digital hearth, and the next step is 3D," said Makoto Nagura, director of the video camera business unit at Panasonic. On the big screens behind him read the words "Panasonic will change the world".
The problem with 3D products so far are numerous - steep prices being possibly the most prohibitive drawback, but this looks sure to change in the months and years to come.
The new Panasonic TX-P42GT20, for example, is Panasonic's first not-quite top-end 3D TV. It's going to be cheaper than the 3D TVs in the brand-leading Viera VT20 series of plasma TVs. There's no official pricing info available yet, but Amazon UK has it available for pre-order for £1,557 which is about £500 cheaper than the 50-inch TX-P50VT02 model.
It doesn't come with any 3D glasses in the box though, so it's not quite clear exactly how much cheaper it's going to be, but cheaper it is nonetheless. And you can expect the price to come down after Christmas for sure.
What this means is that even though 3D TVs have been available on the market for less than a year, the tech is now making its way down the product ranges of the biggest manufacturers. The practical upshot of this is that if you buy a new TV in a couple of years time, it's going to be 3D-capable whether you like it or not.
Fixing 3D's problems
Another problem with 3D has been the availability of 3D content. Live 3D transmissions are few and far between across Europe, and 3D Blu-ray players are not only expensive but also hampered by a lack of available 3D discs.
Panasonic is looking to help out here too, by launching 3D IPTV services to bring 3D content through your internet connection (the latest Panasonic 3D tellys have built-in Wi-Fi).
"I guarantee you that now is the time to buy Panasonic 3D products, " said Hirotoshi Uehara, the director of Panasonic's TV business, as he addressed the press conference. "We anticipate 3D IPTV as one of the most important elements."
Hirotoshi said that 3D IPTV would be coming to Panasonic's 3D TVs in 2011 through the Viera Cast service. We were treated to a sneak preview of this 3D IPTV content in the shape of a trailer for The Last Airbender. We reckon Panasonic could have chosen some better source material there, but the picture looked pretty good - nowhere near as sharp as 3D Blu-ray, but impressive nonetheless.
Online shopping - in 3D?
Another key feature in the launch of 3D IPTV will come in the world of online shopping, said Uehara. He hinted at a future service which will enable 3D TV-owners to walk round, browse and purchase from 'real' shops in 3D, from the comfort of their own home.
Yet another reason to not bother going outside next summer.
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