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Plugged In

James Cameron sees the future of 3D in Nintendo

Plugged In

Bumper Jack

The future of 3D is glasses-free, according to pioneering director James Cameron. And video game devices like Nintendo 3DS will play a key role in indoctrinating mainstream consumers to 3D technology.

The Oscar-winning director was on hand at the NAB 2011 conference in Las Vegas to announce his new 3D technology company, Cameron Pace Group.

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Avatar: The Game

"Videogames are going to help propel the autostereoscopic (glasses free) play because that's going to be the entry level for most people," said Cameron. "These single-viewing devices that are engaging the person to play these video games will drive a lot of investment in autostereoscopic displays for that very reason. That technology will trickle up to the larger 3D displays that will be used for home viewing and gaming."

Cameron first jumped into the video game space with Ubisoft's Avatar video games, which marked a collaboration between the filmmaker's special effects house Digital Domain and Ubisoft's game makers in Montreal. James Cameron's Avatar was the game industry's first cross-platform (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC) stereoscopic release.

Ubisoft sold almost 3 million copies of the game across all platforms worldwide, but those sales figures pale in comparison to the success of the Avatar film's global box office ($2.78 billion) and home entertainment releases (15.3 million DVDs and 5 million Blu-ray Discs sold in 2010).

Cameron is game for more interactive exploration. He sits on the board of directors for video game technology company Multiverse, which powered interactive marketing initiatives surrounding the Avatar movie. Multiverse also provides game engine technology for massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like Dark Horizons: The Awakening, LunarQuest and Islands of War.

"I'd love to do an MMORPG experience inside the Avatar universe and I would like to see it authored in 3D," said Cameron. "I'd like to see people doing gameplay in 3D, so that's something that we're looking to do. But we're not active on that yet."

Cameron believes video games will play the lead role in bringing 3D entertainment into the home, even if early adoption has suffered some bumps along the road.

"Videogames are going to be the drivers, but they haven't done so today because the cycle creation has lagged behind," Cameron said. "The consumer electronics companies introduced these screens last year, so we're a year into this and it takes 18 months to two years to author a high quality video game. So you're going to see a stampede of video games and then that, in turn, is just going to catalyze more broad scale adoption in the home of these big 3D screens."

Sony has already released its first 3D games designed from the ground up to take advantage of stereoscopic viewing. Killzone 3, MLB 11: The Show, and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs recently shipped, and later this year gamers will have Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception for PlayStation 3, which also plays Blu-ray 3D movies like Avatar.

And Cameron's publishing partner, Ubisoft, said that half of its games released this year will feature stereo 3D gameplay, including its upcoming Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Electronic Arts published Crytek's cross-platform Crysis 2 in stereo 3D.

Nintendo has seen strong sales for its Nintendo 3DS handheld, paving the way for additional smartphones and even tablets planning to enter the market place with glasses-free technology. French researchers Jeremie Francone and Laurence Nigay from the Grenoble Informatics Laboratory have already created technology that opens up glasses-free gaming possibilities for Apple's iPad and iPad 2.

And to Cameron, the 'glasses-free' aspect of these technologies is really the key.

"One of the big barriers to 3D right now is that you have to wear glasses in the home," said Cameron. "Home viewing is very different than movie theater viewing. I don't think we'll ever get rid of the glasses in movie theaters. Not in my lifetime, anyway, but we're going to get rid of them at home because it's a different viewing model type. You're distracted at home. You're doing other things. You're pausing a game or a movie and going to get pizza or whatever it is. It's not the same very-dedicated sort of consciousness that you have in a movie theater, so getting rid of the glasses will be a big deal."

Cameron is currently writing the scripts for Avatar 2 and 3 (set to debut Christmas 2014 and Christmas 2015, respectively), which he will film back-to-back using brand new 3D technology that Cameron Pace Group is developing. Beyond the MMO game, Cameron is expected to get involved in the new Avatar games based on these sequels, given how active he was in Ubisoft's original games.

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