David Cole, co-founder of Next3D, on the future of 3D TV and the 3D generation

David Cole, Next 3DThere are some who believe that the 3DTV space is getting a little ahead of itself; that the TV makers are pushing the content providers to deliver product that isn't ready for prime time. David Cole is among them, which is something of a surprise because Cole, the co-founder of Next3D, has been working within and perfecting technology for 3D presentation since the mid 1990s and is something of a 3D fanatic.

Cole sat down with FierceCable to talk a little about Next3D and a lot about 3D as a medium, starting with the thought that it might not be here yet, even though 3D TV appears to be inevitable.

FierceCable: So the first question is always the same when it comes to 3D. Where's the market?

David Cole: The bulk of the content available to the home consumer right now is 3D video gaming. There's an enormous amount of really exciting core development going on in terms of gaming. That's the primary driver here for us and the reason we're launching on PCs first. The early adopters and the first guys to get really big TVs and glasses are gamers.

FC: So when does 3D TV happen? If you read some press releases, it's here already--in TVs and consumer electronics devices, on cable and satellite and telco ...

DC: The jury's out. We talk to everybody in the space and some of the most compelling things I've heard are from Disney and DreamWorks. There's a generation that's growing up expecting 3D glasses to be part of the movie viewing experience. That does translate to the home market and that's probably the next part of the adoption curve: the 3D generation.

3D TV contentFC: So when does the 3D generation grow up?

DC: We're looking at five, six years where all the world's theatrical children's programming being released will be in the 3D. We are training a generation.

FC: But when will that translate from the big screen to the not-so-big screen in the home entertainment center?

DC: I don't think it's realistic to expect it to happen overnight. The content has to be compelling. Sports is a really unique experience when it's done right in 3D so it's really difficult to go back to 2D. It's part of our reason for existing.

FC: What does your existence bring to the party?

DC: The company is built on our intellectual property for stereoscopic compression ... with an ability to deliver high quality 3D at very low bitrates. We have two business units: a video-on-demand business that is launching this summer and a second piece that is more industrial in nature which is live streaming content that we're currently developing in conjunction with Turner Broadcasting and we intend to license broadly for live streaming over any IP connection.

FC: Following up on two things you said there: a connection with Turner Broadcasting (which was announced in January 2010) and IP connections. Does this mean you're looking at 3DTV for IPTV or can conventional cable fit into your technology?

DC: Our target is to migrate our client to as many of the consumer electronics platforms as we can, specifically looking at the modern system-on-a-chip OEM modules from Intel and NVIDIA both for receiving our streaming content and for our video-on-demand services. It starts with the PC. The first visible consumer functionality from us will be a PC client and then the road map includes game consoles and CE devices.

FC: So why do you need Turner?

DC: The relationship with Turner helps with cable. Right now the model for us is over IP which is a big bite and a very important first step for distribution over the Internet. But there's no difference in the packetization of that content whether it's going over a satellite connection or an Internet connection or a transport stream over cable. We do envision the opportunity to utilize our relationship with Turner and others to potentially move into the digital broadcast space.

FC: When and where?

DC: It looks like it's easier to build outside of the U.S. at first. 3D TV modelTo move into the U.S., the process would be to go to CableLabs and demonstrate the compelling reason to use a proprietary codec inside the cable world or the digital broadcast world. The rest of the world scenario is not quite so bureaucratic. So, as I said, for now the strategy is to leverage the Turner relationship to move into broadcast. We have a lot to chew on with supplying an over-the-top IP solution right now.

FC: You're a technology guy. How's the first crop of 3DTV looking to you?

DC: Some would say the TV manufacturers put the cart before the horse; they launched too early. A number of broadcast providers moved very quickly to try to pump 3D down a TV infrastructure and there's been a deafening quality backlash. The value of going to the trouble of get a 3D TV and putting on glasses means there has to be a payoff and the payoff can't be a headache.

FC: Ah, yes, the glasses. Has your technology advanced enough that the glasses can be tossed in the recycling bin?

DC: Not yet. This is still a stereoscopic-dependent technology. however, we do have IP (intellectual property) around a transmission technique for multi-view auto-stereo displays. But that's the future. For now we're stereo (and glasses) dependent.