Starting in mid-March, Panasonic began a series of consumer awareness campaigns, dubbed the “Touch the Future” tour, which kicked off simultaneously in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, with an additional thirteen cities on the tour that continues through mid-April:
Ostensibly to highlight the market introduction of Panasonic’s 3D plasma flat panel HDTVs, the road show also included demos of their latest Lumix digital cameras, Viera Cast internet-enabled TVs, HD camcorders and Blu-ray-equipped home theater surround sound systems.
At the LA event, held in Hollywood at an exhibit hall attached to the multi-level shopping complex that surrounds the Kodak Theatre (the venue for the annual Oscar awards gala and a tourist magnet), Panasonic representatives were on hand to explain and demo the various products. As expected, their new line of 3D plasma sets were prominently highlighted, along with their 3D Blu-ray player and home theater surround system, along with a demo of DirecTV’s forthcoming dedicated 3D HD channels that were announced at the January CES show in Las Vegas. At each stop on the tour, consumers were invited to fill out a brief survey, which put them in the running to win a complete Panasonic 3D home theater system.
In addition to the DirecTV 3D demo and Blu-ray 3D demo, Panasonic had a 3D PC gaming demonstration, partnering up with PC video graphics chip maker NVIDIA, and the setup featured an NVIDIA-branded gaming PC connected to one of the 3D plasma sets. What made this particular 3D demo noteworthy was the fact that the particular PC game chosen (Avatar, of course) isn’t actually available in 3D format as of yet – it’s a 2D-originated game.
What NVIDIA has done is develop a PC software program that utilizes some of the graphics processor unit’s computing muscle to render any 2D PC game into 3D in real time. At the demo station, a twenty-something guy (your stereotypical PC gamer) was completely and utterly absorbed playing the game in 3D, which provided the same kind of depth reminiscent of the 3D version of the movie it’s based on. Slated for availability around the end of April, the NVIDIA 2D-to-3D software program, 3DTV Play, will retail for around $40, and will allow any gaming PC that’s equipped with a sufficiently muscular graphics card to work with the new Panasonic 3D plasma sets (NVIDIA all but owns the PC gamer GPU market, and supplies the GPU chip that’s in Sony’s PS3 console).
In Washington, DC-speak, that’s a “big Biden deal.” Hard-core PC gamers (who scoff at popular high def game consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3 as paltry playthings for neophytes) spend big bucks kitting out their computers with buckets of RAM, high speed multi-core processors, capacious hard drives and blazingly fast video cards, and make up an ideal potential early adopter consumer segment for Panasonic’s new 3D plasma models.