Have these losers hit on a winning idea?

3D entertainment seems like a perennial loser. Studios have always pushed it… and the audience has pushed it right back at them. It seemed like the next big thing in the 1950s with the success of schlocky sci-fi flicks like It Came from Outer Space and Robot Monster. Then it died. Studios invested in 3D again in the 1980s and most recently in the last five years… but it just hasn’t taken off. The verdict is in – people just don’t want 3D!

TV companies have pushed 3D technology too. But the majority of TV owners seem to have little interest in putting on the glasses and watching in 3D at home.

But today I want to tell you about a penny share company that believe they are on the verge of finally finding a good commercial use for admittedly exciting 3D technology…

True 3D, without glasses

Most of us by now have tried out the uncomfortable 3D glasses at the cinema. And plenty of us have concluded that the 3D experience is not up to much. I saw Avatar when it was released in 2009, and have not bothered to see another film in 3D since. I have a 3D-enabled television at home that cost an absolute fortune, and I have barely used the 3D function.
But the television I tried last week was different.

This 3D imagery did not require me to wear headgear of any sort. The image was clear and lifelike. As with the eyes of the Mona Lisa it followed you around the room. You did not have to sit rigidly bang in front of the set. And in a neat little extra function, it was possible to control the degree of depth, from near 2D to images flying off the screen.

I was in Hammersmith at the invitation of Ram Active Media (RAM), an AIM company with a consistent eight year record… of abysmal failure. However, RAM’s chairman Tim Baldwin is newly confident about the future of the business. RAM Vision supplies advertising screens to shopping malls and provides screens with onboard information to rail travellers.

The problems with 3D technology

The immediate excitement with this penny share is with its 3D technology. There are still plenty of problems with current 3D technology. Because of the way that 3D channels are broadcast, essentially providing one image for the left eye and one for the right, they can cause headaches and conditions potentially harmful to pregnant women and the elderly.

There is also the cost – a 42 inch 3D television can set you back around £499. And you need to have enough pairs of glasses. It is no good if your children invite their friends round to watch a 3D movie and they have to take it in turns to watch!

And these days there is a new problem… most people now watch more than just the TV screen. While they are watching they may also be texting away to their pals or flicking through the iPad. Clearly, 3D glasses are not going to work for them.
So, it is fair to say that 3D TV has not really caught on. But RAM thinks its technology can overcome most of these hurdles.

RAM’s innovative technology

The picture is clear, and because it is not split into two images it should be comfortable on the eye. Next, the viewer will be able to switch from regular 2D to 3D via the remote control and adjust the 3D depth in the same way.

In the demonstration that I saw, the TV was connected to a large box that converted a 2D image into 3D. Thanks to the miracle of micro-electronics, this box will before long be no bigger than a chip that can be fitted in the television. From the perspective of the viewer all the boxes appear to have been ticked. But for the film-makers and TV set manufacturers, there will still be additional considerations to be made before any radical changes happen.

Now, I must tell you at this point that RAM does not own this technology, but is in a joint venture with a Philadelphia-based outfit called Stream. You should also know that this is a hugely competitive and fast moving environment and although the technology that I saw looked impressive, there may be something comparable out there.

But there is one angle that I like, and it relates back to RAM’s shopping centre screen advertising business. An advert for a soft drink, for instance, would be much more effective if it appeared to jump out of the screen at you. With the technology that I saw, this should soon be possible.

I would not invest in RAM Media without doing some more research. But it is intriguing.

• This article is taken from Tom Bulford’s free twice-weekly small-cap investment email The Penny Sleuth. Sign up to The Penny Sleuth here.

Information in Penny Sleuth is for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon by individual readers in making (or not making) specific investment decisions. Penny Sleuth is an unregulated product published by Fleet Street Publications Ltd.

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