3-D Vision Brings New Dimensions to 2-D TV, Even The Wizard of Oz
The pitch for 3-D video in the home has yet to be embraced by the majority of consumers, but a Westbury, NY-based innovator believes his technology can jumpstart demand. Gene Dolgoff, CEO of 3-D Vision, developed a way to turn two-dimensional video content into 3-D imagery without the need for new televisions. Though his converter for homes is still in the prototype phase, he says a production model could be ready soon—with enough funding.
“The idea is to make it so people can use equipment they already have to enjoy the 3-D experience at home,” he says.
Consumer electronics giants such as Samsung, LG Electronics, and Panasonic have been lauding 3-D technology as a feature in many of their new televisions and blu-ray players. The problem is the library of 3-D content available on disc remains limited and the choices are even more restrictive on broadcast television. The industry faces a chicken-and-egg dilemma as studios gradually introduce more 3-D material and televisions capable of displaying such visual effects creep into homes. “People don’t want to spend the money on a new TV set,” Dolgoff say. “It’s almost unjustifiable because there is nothing to watch in 3-D.”
3-D Vision’s technology is being positioned as a lower cost alternative to techniques studios currently use to convert two-dimensional video. Dolgoff says he can turn even The Wizard of Oz into a 3-D feature.
Studios dabble with the visual dazzle of 3-D in action movies to make objects such Captain America’s shield seem to fly at the audience but it is hard to imagine a TV show such as Gossip Girl leveraging such technology to add visual depth.
That may change with Dolgoff’s Instant 3-D Converter device currently under development for televisions and computers. His company’s Auto 3D technology was put to work in 2010 converting a special episode of the Rachel Ray Show. The technology allowed the show to be converted without having to put new cameras or editing equipment in the production crew’s hands. Some 2.5 million special glasses were distributed in advance to let viewers at home see the visual effect on any television. Now Dolgoff wants to go after an even larger audience.
The converter box Dolgoff is working on is designed to function with most televisions, including old cathode ray tube models, turning incoming 2-D footage from any source into 3-D content when viewed with accompanying glasses. Dolgoff developed an algorithm that converts the images into 3-D—a process he says no one else has. “If you want to see a TV show, play a video game, or watch a movie in 3-D, you could do it on whatever television you had,” he says. He plans to sell the converter through retailers and his own website.
Dolgoff believes his technology can help boost overall demand for 3-D video as well as televisions capable of displaying such footage. However, he says many consumer electronics makers regard his technology as a potential threat to their own efforts. He believes they may change their minds if the public is largely won over by the format.
Since their founding in 2000, 3-D Vision and its sister company The 3D Source have raised $3 million in equity through bootstrapping and backing by friends and family, in addition to $3 million in debt financing. The 3D Source is a 3-D printing company Dolgoff founded to serve the advertising market.
Eager to commercialize the 3-D converter box, Dolgoff recently turned to crowfunding site Fundable. Dolgoff says he initially looked to Kickstarter as a funding platform but he wanted to see more details about the process before diving in. “I was not able to get access to enough information to feel comfortable that I knew what I was doing,” he says.
Dolgoff is trying to drum up interest in his technology with a contest on Fundable’s website to design the case for the production version of the converter box. Anyone who wants to enter the contest must pledge money, and there’s a $10,000 prize slated for the winner. Dolgoff is also taking preorders through Fundable for his device. Beyond the contest, he says he wants to raise $2 million to get the production prototype ready and then another $8 million to move into actual production.
Twelve-year-old 3-D Vision is the latest in Dolgoff entrepreneurial and innovation endeavors. As a young boy in Manhattan he repaired televisions in his neighborhood. He was creating holograms by the time he was 14. Dolgoff invented the LCD projector, and then in 1988 he founded Projectavision Inc., a projector company built around that technology. He parted ways with Projectavision in 1995 and the company merged in 1999 with Vidikron, an Italian maker of projection systems.
Dolgoff believes that with funding to advance into production 3-D Vision can break even within the next five quarters. Looking further ahead, he foresees an exit event for his company through an IPO or sale within three years—as long as demand for this technology picks up. “People like 3-D and they want it at home,” he says. “This fills that need in a unique way.”