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CES Communications Round-Up Part 3: Minoru

To close out our conversation on CES communications news we take a look at three more companies innovating in this space. While we are on the topic of video telephony and webcams we can’t forget to touch on one of the major trends coming out of the show—3-D.
What? Put on those silly glasses? Watch blotchy, nauseating, red and green video? Are we bringing back “Creature Double Feature?” Well… yes, no, and no.

3-D has come a long way from “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Frankly, I was surprised how much attention it was given at CES. Several of the major HDTV vendors announced plans to bake support for the technology into their new lines of flat panel TVs (more on that later) and many of the video game console and PC game vendors displayed their new 3-D strategies. Yes, they all need some form of those silly glasses.

What I saw at CES in regards to 3-D ranged from the gimmicky to truly eye-catching graphics. I think I get the reasons why the industry is embracing this blast from the past. For one, if done well it really does enhance the movie watching or game playing experience. If you have ever been to “Terminator 3-D” at Universal Studios you will know what I mean. 3-D has a way of pulling you into the action as it literally pops out at you. From the vendor perspective, it makes sense to try to differentiate.TV manufacturers are already seeing HDTV prices decline and the battle over video resolution support (720p/1080i/1080p) and screen size either being fought to a draw or fitting into the normal CE categories of low, medium, and high-end markets.

But the strategic “silver bullet” I learned is the content piracy protections. David Holder, CEO of Promotion & Display Technology, explained that, because 3-D cannot be recorded or duplicated in a quality, watchable form, it has the added benefit of protecting an industry that has lost billions to pirates with simple hand-held camcorders. Makes sense. But now the industry has the daunting task of convincing all of us that we need 3-D in our lives as much as we have come to realize we cannot live without HD. And that we shouldn’t be afraid to wear those geeky glasses (I am sure Gucci will come out with a high-end line if the market takes off).

David’s company hopes to help with that task. PDT’s new Minoru 3D Webcam is a cute little device you mount to your computer screen. Minoru is a single piece with two cameras that create a stereoscopic effect. It records your webcam action in 3D and allows you to upload to YouTube with just a few clicks. It works with all major messenger platforms like AIM and Skype and comes with 5 pairs of 3D glasses for your friends and family (yup, only a small step up from the cardboard ones from yesteryear).

You have to hand it to the folks behind Minoru. They are doing their part to promote 3D by providing a simple, low-cost ($89.95 available at Amazon) device that easily fits into the IM and YouTube generation. I did a demo and the quality looked OK, but I wondered how my eyes, brain, and stomach would hold up after frequent use. I would have recorded a demo to share with you but, well, it wouldn’t have come out anyway.

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