Nowadays it is quite normal that the introduction of a new entertainment device is linked with the establishment of a new format for distributing and enjoying video, games or something else. In this respect, the PlayStation consoles have all played a serious role in each of the three generations Sony has released so far. The first generation PlayStation proved to be a great CD player and some audiophiles still use these, whereas PS2’s DVD playback capabilities provided a major boost for sales of this format when it was first introduced. And now PlayStation 3 already has played a big role in the establishment of Blu-ray Disc as the next generation High Definition successor to DVD for Video and Games, but now it seems this might not be the only achievement of the third gen PlayStation console…
You can say that the first two generation PlayStation consoles were a part of the kids bedroom or elsewhere away from the main living room with the general idea for the devices to provide entertainment for the kids while playing games on them. The PlayStation 3 on the other hand has been designed from the start with the idea to be something more than just a gaming console – a home entertainment hub, sitting beneath the TV set in the living room and doing a lot more than running games. And the next big feature coming from Sony Computer Entertainment for the PS3 is the release of a free firmware upgrade for the console, which will enable it to playback games in Stereoscopic 3D mode with the added perception of true depth. But that might not be the only thing, as with the 3D Blu-Ray standard almost finalized and with the expected availability of HD movies on Blu-ray sometime next year, the PlayStation 3 could also become a great Stereoscopic 3D movie player.
Not a long time ago at a special briefing Sony has announced that it will be releasing stereoscopic 3D game titles for PS3 in conjunction with Sony’s 3D TV launch timing next year (Bravia 3D TV anyone?). The company explained that it will also actively support software developers and publishers, providing technological information to develop stereoscopic 3D games and content. Furthermore, all the existing PlayStation 3 consoles will be made stereoscopic 3D compatible through the system software update. This is possible because PS3 comes with an HDMI video output as a standard right from its launch (unlike Microsoft’s Xbox 360) and also because the system integrates the quite powerful and versatile Cell processor.
The firmware update with the new features will be freely available to be downloaded by everyone, without the need to purchase something to enable the Stereoscopic 3D support for the console, but you’ll still have to wait some time before it is made available. The technology that will be used is active shutter glasses along with a TV set capable of providing true 200/240 Hz refresh rate – being able to accept input of up to 200/240 fps. This is what the new Bravia 3D TV sets should be capable of, unlike the currently available generation that just take up to 60Hz input, but are able to increase internally the framerate for video to make it appear more smooth and clear with the use of specialized algorithms. Aside from Sony’s new Bravia TVs that will probably premiere with the console update in 2010 (hopefully by the summer) other companies are also going to release more 3D TVs that might be compatible with the PS3’s new functionality.
One interesting question that arises is if the PS3 will be able to also work on 100/120Hz TV sets and maybe even computer monitors that do have an HDMI input, or will it require specifically the higher refresh rate models. Speaking especially for the use of 120Hz computer monitors there might be another issue for lets say the owners of Nvidia’s 3D Vision and this is related to the synchronization of the glasses. 3D Vision is not compatible with PS3 and you cannot have the glasses sync up to something from the monitor – they need the IR transmitter and it does not support the console, so 3D Vision is a no go. Unless of course you kind of do a Frankenstein and use the IR transmitter on a PC, just to send the needed signal to the glasses in order for you to play on the console… this might do the trick. But there is also another question regarding the sync rate of the 3D Vision shutter glasses, currently they work on either 100, 110 and 120 Hz refresh rate meaning that each of them “flashes” 60 to 60 times per second, but with a true 200/240Hz the sync rate should be doubled. Of course the 3D Vision should be able to sync up with the higher refresh… in theory, but we still need to wait and see if that will work on practice.
Anyway, one thing can be for sure and that is when Sony provides the free upgrade to all its lets say over 30 million existing PS3 consoles this will for sure result in serious increase of the interest for Stereoscopic 3D content. And this will also result in serious demand for 3D capable TV sets and this is also probably what Sony is hoping for in order to quickly push their upcoming Bravia 3D TVs. Of course the game developers should also start preparing for the demand for good stereoscopic 3D games, although one thing is still not very clear – will all the old games be playable in stereoscopic 3D or not. In theory it should not be too hard to do something like what the 3D Vision drivers are doing on the PC, but for the PS3, but here the issue might lay elsewhere and actually be related to Sony not willing to do that in order to open the demand for new games. But if you have a S3D capable console and TV set would you be willing to wait for months for each and every game title that will come out with Stereoscopic 3D support… probably not!