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Intel hosted a series of media technology sessions, and we managed to sit in on a session titled “Building Blu-ray 3D Systems.”
Stereoscopic 3D is all the rage in the consumer electronics world. It’s unclear how many people are actually buying into the 3D movies in the home concept (as opposed to simply buying the latest HDTV, which happens to support 3D.) Still, a lot of marketing and engineering effort is being put into 3D HDTV.
Sandy Bridge graphics, in addition to building in programmable Execution Units (EUs), includes full dual high definition decode capability in a fixed-function unit. This Multi-Format Decoder natively understands H.264, VC1, and MPEG-2, completely offloading from the graphics engine and the CPU when decoding two simultaneous high definition streams.
The two streams are composited, along with any other layers (like subtitles). The EUs come into play here, doing the heavy lifting on the compositing side, assembling the frames into a format that the display device can then take and render into a pair of left-right frames.
What this means in the end is that you’ll be able to buy a laptop with Intel HD Graphics (or whatever the company decides to name Sandy Bridge's graphics engine) and watch 3D movies. Intel was showing off the capability of using a Sandy Bridge laptop attached to a 1080p HDTV via HDMI for 3D viewing.
Note that the entire focus of this effort is on 3D stereoscopic video playback. It’s very unlikely that Sandy Bridge will offer enough 3D horsepower to render 3D games stereoscopically, so Nvidia’s 3D Vision is still safe for the time being--at least when it comes to gaming.