By Kris Tuttle
We’ve been spending a dominant share of our research attention during the last few months on a space we call RealVR. Part of what we see coming is display and visualization technologies that will usher in a set of more advanced interface technologies (multi-touch, gesture, voice) and be a substrate for many new applications.
One part of that display trend is 3D. It’s no longer a gimmick. When seen in action the potential becomes clear that it’s not just about 3D film images (although there are already over 40 films in 3D production right now) but an important part of most new user interfaces. Here are a few notable points:
- Desktops and other user display technologies are going 3D this year. The 2D desktop is generally a static, and very limited view for us. It works well for task-based activities. Users are using more active windows now like video and chat but they all take up valuable "screen real estate" because of the 2D nature of what we have. In 3D visual elements can be placed in perspective with one another. For example a video or a slide show can literally be "in the background." More technically it will also allow virtual representations of real objects to be operated on in much more intuitive and productive ways. One fun example to play with for Windows users is BumpTop.
- Numerous consumer cameras, displays and gaming systems are going 3D. A few of these include cameras, browsers, and TV. Some number of these consumer 3D trends could end up being fads but we some of them are going to endure. Especially for specialized applications like games, sports and some types of films. Nvidia also started offering a high-end 3D display with special glasses in a kit form a few months ago with Samsung supplying the special displays.) Panasonic and other firms are putting substantial development resources into 3D HD cameras and displays.
- The gap between virtual designs and real manufactured objects is shrinking. Most physical objects are designed using powerful software platforms from companies like Dassault Systems. Increasingly Dassault and others are delivering tools that can actually realistically simulate actual manufacturing operations. Companies that can produce 3D prototypes have been around for some time (Stratasys (SSYS) and 3D systems (TDSC)) and contract manufacturing has been moving ever closer to on-demand. What does it mean? It will translate into the ability to move real objects into the virtual space and vice versa as getting more friction free than ever.
- Technology companies like Intel are investing large sums of money in providing the needed infrastructure at scale for this to go mainstream. Smaller firms like Nvidia are fully focused on this area as the key to their long-term growth. A good rundown on some of what Intel sees was described by Steve Cutler of Intel last week and is summarized in this article.
We could go on (and on, and on) here but will leave it at that. We’ve recently published two reports that go into more detail and plenty more are on the way. What about the stocks?
There’s a large and developing ecosystem for the space and a few names we have in it include mainstream companies like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) , Nvidia (NVDA), Adobe (ADBE), Dassault Systems (OTC:DASTY) and Amazon.com (AMZN).
We think that this trend will dominate overall technology spending in the next decade with tie-ins to mobile computing, social networking and digital entertainment.
Disclosure: Author has long positions in all the companies mentioned, with the exceptions of Stratasys and 3D Systems.