Sky unleashes 3D television demo

3D television in your home has moved a step closer to reality, with Sky showing off what it describes as its 'vision of the future' - Sky+3D.

In a demonstration at its Osterley headquarters, Sky showed off its own version of three-dimensional television, showing off clips from a number of sports and entertainment shows which were being played through a standard Sky HD set-top box from a normal HD channel but being run through a production model 3D television set.

"From our point of view this is just the next stage of our innovation plan following on from Sky+, from HD and now to 3D is the way we see things might go in the future," said Brian Lenz – Head of Product, Design and Innovation at BSkyB.

"The important thing is that it's going through our existing infrastructure which is a significant change in the realism of bringing 3D to the consumer."

Existing boxes

The capacity to play the dual hi-def picture format which can then be processed by the television through the existing architecture was pivotal to Sky's plans – allowing them to quickly bring the feature in without having to change the boxes in people's homes.

Sky insists that it is still in the planning stages of the technology, which does require 3D glasses to work – with the company keen to judge the interest in 3D television by publicising its trials so far.

"What we're looking at today is firstly that we can do it, and we think we can do it and at a quality level that makes it interesting to begin to look at whether there is an appetite for it from the consumer," added Lenz.

"That's really what we are trying to present today. We've been pleasantly surprised at the results and it's interesting to share now and explore further because the TV manufacturers and the content producers are looking to try to make something happen in 3D and potentially there's an advantage there for Sky.

3D TV needed - but coming soon

"The connection of this [Japanese production model] TV, which costs around £2,500, with our existing technology, and the ability to do the tech end to end, convinced us to take a longer look at this technology and start to ask how far can we take this and might it be a commercial proposition.

"We know that 3D will be something that TV manufacturers will be pushing as a feature in the next couple of years and this is our first step at looking at what the opportunity might be in this space."

With the likes of Dolby 3D and, most prominently, IMAX's move from the giant screen to the 'normal' cinema screen with Digital IMAX, 3D viewing is moving firmly back into the mainstream.

Live sport

Currently the technology works better for sports like boxing than football or rugby – with footage from 2008's Ricky Hatton come-back fight a prefect illustration of the technology at its best.

The ability to create 3D pictures in real time – rather than the more usual method of in post-production – is intriguing, using two standard cameras and a special mirror-rig to bring depth of field.

"It's possible [to do it] live, you can cut it live and you can start inserting live graphics in 3D as well," explained Sky Sports Head of Broadcasting Darren Long.

"All this technology is starting to come together, we're refining it, we're looking at ways to improve it and obviously it's something we are experimenting with in live production."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.