IT LOOKS LIKE 3D glasses are going to make a big splash at CES, and one of the best pairs I have seen is by Bit Cauldron. Although they are still shutter glasses, they remove most of the glaring problems that current ‘solutions’ have.
If you recall, the last time I mentioned 3D glasses, it was about the Nvidia 3D vision parts. They were the wrong technology, using the wrong signaling, tied to the wrong monitors, going against the grain of the entire CE industry, all wrapped in a proprietary hardware setup at an abusive price. Bit Cauldron addresses six of the seven technologies while adding a bunch of technical extras.
I first saw the glasses at AMD’s TFE in Taipei, and although they were still very early prototypes, it was pretty clear that they addressed most of the glaring issues that Nvidia seems keen on promoting. The CE industry, that would be the TV and monitor makers, seems to have settled on LCD shutter glasses.
While these are far less sane for consumer use than polarized glasses, when it is Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba and others versus someone with a bright idea, the big guys are going to win. Thus you will be using shutter glasses for your 3D viewing needs starting in a few months.
Three of the four glasses above are prototypes, the fourth being a ‘movie theater’ grade shutter glasses set. On the left, you have the panel from Nvidia glasses, the middle is an unnamed third party panel, and on the right are the Bit Cauldron parts, obviously none are in anything close to their original frames.
The thing to notice is that the white balance is way off on the Nvidia panels. The shutters should be either on and fully black, or off and totally clear. Anything between those is undesirable and leads to ghosting, blurring, headaches, and other problems. The Bit Cauldron panels are the clearest out there, and the clearest we have seen to date. While colors being off may not be a big deal to gamers, it matters quite a bit more to people watching HD movies on their expensive new 3D capable TV.
Moving right along, a really big complaint about the Nvidia glasses is the absolutely moronic choice of IR signaling to trigger the shutters. This is cheap and easy to do, strobe on, one side is dark, strobe off, the other side is dark. Then again, if you have an IR remote, fluorescent light, or other IR source, you have problems. If you have two of them in the same room, well, game over. LAN parties are right out, and Nvidia demos are hilarious to watch. The contortions they have to go through to prevent interference are downright laughable.
Bit Cauldron solves this by using Zigbee aka 802.15.4, a Bluetooth-like signaling method. It is lower power than Bluetooth, and has thousands of available channels. You could theoretically fill a medium sized stadium with Bit Cauldron 3D glasses and have everyone on their own channel. You could also boost the signal a bit and have everyone in sync. The range can go up to 1km, and at those power levels, it keeps pigeons away – what a bonus!
To mate with the transmitter, the shiny little oval thing above the glasses, it works with a standard called RF4CE. This is a mating standard aimed at the people who think reality TV is intellectually challenging, so it is theoretically idiot-proof. The US seems to keep manufacturing better idiots, and it will fun to see which side wins.
In any case, the idea is simple, when you try to pair up, if there is one transmitter, the glasses just latch on to it. If there are multiple ones, it allows you to choose. With so many channels available, you can use them safely at LAN parties, stadiums, theaters, and wherever you want without stepping on your neighbors toes. IR can’t begin to match this.
Since they use better panels and better electronics, the Bit Cauldron glasses can sync to almost any TV or monitor. They explicitly support 60/120, 50/100 and 84Hz panels, and are ready for 240Hz when those arrive. You don’t need a special monitor for these, and the monitor maker doesn’t need to tithe to the green mafia either.
How do they connect then? Easy, there is a connector on the back of all ‘3D ready’ TVs, called VESA 1997.11. Plug in the transmitter, and the monitor signals the transmitter when the frames change. It isn’t really all that complex. Bit Cauldron also supports USB and proprietary standards if the people OEMing the glasses want to use either of those.
That brings us to the last bit, price. Bit Cauldron isn’t going to be selling any glasses. It makes them for OEMs who put a sticker on them or specify designs. You will be able to get them soon from tons of companies, but all made with the Bit Cauldron tech. This means price competition, multiple styles of glasses, and various flavors to work with many different types of electronics.
In a few weeks, the Bit Cauldron glasses should be available pretty widely. There will be variants for the upcoming crop of 3D TVs, widgets, laptops and PCs. Basically these glasses are an open standard, and will work with everyone but Nvidia, which is said to be locking out any player that doesn’t kowtow to its own ‘open standard’.
Months ago, we said it was Nvidia versus the world in 3D. Any guesses who will win? The loser is clear though. If you bought the Nvidia 3D glasses, you are at a proprietary dead end, and worse yet, locked out of standards. For everyone else, there is a cheaper and interoperable way. CES should have a bunch of the glasses shown from several brands. Expect pictures of finished parts shortly.S|A