3D TV: Ubiquitous & cheap. But who cares?

My opinion on the gradual penetration of consumer 3D television is not intended as an expert research opinion, but rather speaking simply from experience as a 3D owner.

3D_TV_1aI searched long and far for the perfect balance between a thrilling effect, simplicity, and cost. The brand and technology that I chose is unimportant to my point, but you can bet it was close to the very best in-home, 3D experience available during 2013.

The technology works. That is, it elicits Oohs and Aahhs from visitors every time a fish swims up my neighbor’s nose or the dragon breathes fire and smoke. Basketball games are downright stunning, if a bit hard to find. But (and this is a very big “BUT”)…

… But the overall experience falls considerably short of the community cinema, and its not a problem with the technology. In fact, they are equivalent!

At first, I thought that consumer adoption would be stuck until these problems are worked out. But, in fact, these are NOT the problems:

  • Wait for technology to be equivalent to movie theaters
  • Wait for cost to come down
  • Wait for passive eyewear
  • Wait for a wide spectrum of content (3D broadcast and Films)

In fact, all of these things have happened, and YES, due to low cost, 3D tech is now slapped onto flat screen TVs without demanding that viewers commit to actually using the feature. This gives tremendous impetus to adoption by broadcasters, because it addresses the two-sided network effect. That is, it solves the chicken-and-egg problem.

3D_TV_2aBut here’s the rub: Recall that I said that it falls short of a movie theater experience and yet-with passive glasses-it achieves the same quality and convenience. How can both of these observations be true?

In a movie theater, you are resigned to sit in one place for up to 2 hours without much head movement and certainly without walking about or viewing out of the corner of your eyes. Transporting the same technology into your home (In my opinion, this has been achieved with equal quality), does not create an equal experience. The glasses are never handy (there is no one to clean and recycle them, or hand them to you when you enter the room), and moving about the room causes headaches and eyestrain. Quite simply, it’s unnatural. When eye strain hits, it can cause a lot of discomfort and pain leading to bad headaches, especially if you are exposed to digital devices daily, if you have no choice and must deal and work with them, you will need to make sure you have the right prescription glasses to ease your symptoms.

The practical outcome of this unfortunate situation is that I am left with transient bragging rights (until my friends buy their next TV) and I occasionally supervise stunning demonstrations. But even though content abounds, I really don’t care. After the first weeks of ownership, I never bothered to watch an entire show or movie in 3D. Furthermore, I unloaded the 3D copy of Avatar that came with my Panasonic Blu-Ray player. I prefer to watch in 2D. In the end, black level, contrast and resolution trump the Oohs and Aahhs of things that pop out of the frame.

Ellery Davies is a privacy advocate and security consultant. He addresses
issues at
the intersection of technology with law or social policy. His opinions
and research appear across popular media, scientific and trade venues.

2 thoughts on “3D TV: Ubiquitous & cheap. But who cares?

  1. Pingback: Is 4K HDTV relevant? | A Wild Duck

  2. Hi Ellery.

    It looks like the Wall Street Journal has caught up to your opinion after a year (14 months, in fact). They have just published a ½ page interview with James Cameron (Special Report WSJ.D Live, pg R6): Why 3D TV Was Just a Bit Too Early.

    The argument for glasses-free technology mirrors your posting. Kudos to Wild Duck! You called this shot a year earlier!

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