Sony to bring 3D concerts live to the living room

Going to live concerts could become a thing of the past, according to Japanese electronics giant Sony.

In an event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company announced plans to start beaming 3D gigs directly into living rooms around the world, giving the chance to experience live music events in lifelike clarity without ever leaving the sofa.

The company, which owns an extensive media empire including the world’s second largest record label, believes that new technology could change the way we experience live music.

Sony boss Howard Stringer showed off a 3D version of Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Woodstock performance and said that it would not be long before it became a worldwide standard.

“When it comes to home entertainment, there really is no experience like 3D,” he said. “We intend to take the lead in 3D. We want to provide the most compelling 3D content possible.”

Sir Howard was also joined by pop star Taylor Swift, who gave a performance intended to show the benefits of watching live in three dimensions — but instead the Welsh-born executive, who became the company’s first ever non-Japanese boss in 2005, ended up joking about the company’s recent troubles.

“Maybe you’ll call us cool again, who knows,” he said.

But Sony was not the only company betting heavily on 3D at the CES. Several broadcasters have announced plans to launch 3D channels, while other television makers have also been showing of 3D-capable sets at the world’s most influential technology showcase.

Chief among them was a bank-busting high definition plasma TV screen from Panasonic — which, at an incredible 152 in, is the world’s largest. The screen, which runs almost 13ft from corner to corner, boasts four times higher resolution than a normal full high definition TV and is likely to cost tens of thousands of dollards when it goes on sale later this year.

Apparently ignoring the impact of the recession, the company also unveiled a camcorder that can film in 3D — but comes with a hefty $21 000 price tag.

“We’ve successfully moved from black and white, to colour, to high definition television,” said Bob Perry, Panasonic’s senior vice-president. “But immersive, totally realistic 3D imagery has been the final frontier.”

Despite the recent success of 3D movies including Avatar and Up, not everyone is convinced that the idea will prove a hit with viewers, particularly given that getting the best quality requires buying a new television set as well as wearing special glasses.

With many shoppers still in the process of upgrading to high definition, many industry observers are unsure that the idea of further pricey upgrades will catch on.

“I caution and say should we curb our enthusiasm a little bit for 3D,” said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association, which organises the event.

“We’ve already asked consumers to upgrade to HDTV, we’ve already offered 1080p resolution and surround sound, and we’ve got Blu-ray, and here we come again.”

Elsewhere in Las Vegas, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer had to endure an embarrassing power cut that stopped his opening speech and left the company flailing in front of thousands of onlookers.

Among the technologies on display from Microsoft was the company’s motion-sensing video game controller, Natal, which should be on sale before Christmas, and a selection of new “slate” PCs — large, touch-sensitive screens for reading documents and surfing the web.

The announcement of slate devices was clearly intended as a spoiler for a similar device being prepared by arch rival Apple — which has still not been confirmed, but speculation suggests will be launched by the end of this month. –

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