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Sony shows 3D laptop due in 2011

The Vaio line will get 3D display abilities in 2011, and Sony was eager to show off prototypes of the products as part of its 3D campaign at the IFA show.

Sony's 3D Vaio laptop is due to ship in the spring of 2011.
Sony's 3D Vaio laptop is due to ship in the spring of 2011. Stephen Shankland/CNET

BERLIN--In 2011, Sony plans to join the small set of companies that offers laptops that can display 3D video and games at 1080p resolution.

The company showed off prototypes of a forthcoming Vaio laptop at the IFA electronics show here Wednesday, models that come with a "3D" button and active-shutter glasses to separate what the right and left eyes see.

"3D Vaios will debut next spring," Howard Stringer, Sony's chief executive, said in a press conference touting 3D technology and Sony's commitment to it. Sony also touted other 3D products and content at the show.

The protoypes shown at IFA use "frame-sequential" technology that rapidly cycles the full screen between left-eye and right-eye views, with blank screens in between each to reduce the "crosstalk" that can reduce 3D image quality.

That means the laptop must be able to display video at 240 frames per second to keep up with a 3D rate of 60 frames per second. Sony wouldn't reveal whose graphics chip is used in the system. Sony's also cautioned that the ultimate products may be different from the prototypes it showed.

The 3D Vaio comes with a 3D button to set it for use in 3D mode. Otherwise, it behaves like a normal laptop with 1,920x1080-pixel resolution.
The 3D Vaio comes with a 3D button to set it for use in 3D mode. Otherwise, it behaves like a normal laptop with 1,920x1080-pixel resolution. Stephen Shankland/CNET

IFA, like electronics shows before it, has become a showcase for 3D technology. Many people are indifferent or even hostile about the technology so far, or at least unwilling to pay the necessary premium, but it's also making steady inroads across the electronics and computing industry.

Sony also announced at IFA that some existing Blu-ray players and PlayStation 3 will be retrofitted with new firmware making them 3D-capable. Among 3D game titles Stringer showed were Tumble, the Sly Trilogy, Mortal Kombat, Virtual Tennis 4, Killzone 3, Super Stardust HD, The Fight, Motor Storm Apocalypse, and MLB baseball.

For those who want a really big screen experience, Sony announced a 3D video projector, the WV-90. It will use the same active-shutter system as Sony's Bravia TVs, meaning that the required glasses will work across the line.

The entire press conference was displayed live on a large screen above the stage. Sony opted to use Real D's 3D technology, which today is found in many movie cinemas. Panasonic, which also tooted its 3D horn at IFA, opted instead to use an array of 54 of its own plasma TV screens. Sony, it should be noted, also sells digital cinema projectors and high-end 3D cameras, including some used to shoot the movie Avatar.

Sony, unlike some of its competitors, is a content company. Here, the company plans to tackle 3D aggressively, too.

Sony's prototype Vaio laptop with 1080p 3D display.
Sony's prototype Vaio laptop with 1080p 3D display is designed to show 3D movies or games. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sony also plans to launch its own 3D TV channel, Stringer said, with content to include natural history, children's programming, science, and motion pictures, Stringer said. And Sony Pictures plans several 3D movies soon: "Resident Evil Afterlife," "The Green Hornet," another "Spider-Man" sequel, and another "Men in Black" sequel.

"Being shot in 3D doesn't automatically guarantee success," Stringer said. "What counts is how well you tell a story. A hit is a still a hit is still a hit--except in 3D it's a bigger hit."

And then there are the staples. Sony plans to release by the end of 2010 a Blu-ray disk of highlights of the World Cup soccer tournament, Stringer said.