3D TVs are here for real.

JVC, Samsung, Sony, LG and others are pushing 3D TVs BIG TIME.  Sony and Samsung in particular will have many many 3D ready models this year and everyone one of those models will include the ability to convert 2D to 3D in real-time.  I played with this for a bit and was underwhelmed by Samsungs real-time conversion. I see, maybe, a bit more depth, but nothing worth be exciting about.  On the other hand, JVC’s real-time 2D to 3D was unmistakeably better, but also not available to consumers and over $30k for the unit. 

Bluray is probably the most effective application of the 3D technology and with the Blueray 3D standard set there were plenty of 3D players to back up all the TVs (Yes the PS3 will also support it).  Depending on the size and quality of your TV Blueray 3D is definitely the way to get a movie theater experience at home.

3D Gaming

At CES, for some reason, people were scared to pick up gaming controllers in front of 3D gaming demos, but I was not.  It is as good as any other 3D technology I saw AND you get to control the action.  I was playing Avatar 3D and the holy crap moment for me was running up a creek I saw a waterfall in the background… It actually looked far away.  Not  just smaller because of distance, it had actual depth and it was very striking (I also played a couple different driving simulators in 3D and that just re-enforced how effective the technology is).  This may be the single most immersive application of 3D technology.  Depth combined with controlling your world.  It’s an amazing gaming experience. 

The Challenges

Price - Pricing is still in question, but it sounds like TVs will cost about the same as plasma TVs when they were becoming mainstream.  Figure $5k – $10k to start, but you might be able to get one as low as $2,500 (maybe).

Setup – Depending on the technology (passive vs. active glasses) there is a little bit of setup required.  With active glasses you have to place an IR transmitter in a location visible to the glasses.  This probably wont be any more complicated than placing the Wii sensor bar, but just like the Wii sensor bar, it will pose problems for a small percentage.

Wearing Glasses – This is probably the greatest source of skepticism.  First off, active glasses means they need batteries, which means batteries can die.  How pissed will you be when your glasses stop working mid movie (or, almost worse, mid gaming session)?  Even if you are using passive glasses some people don’t believe they’d wear glasses for extended periods, particularly not for general TV watching.  To those people, I say, go see Avatar in 3D.  I think that Avatar has proven that given a compelling / engaging enough viewing experience most people don’t have significant issues with eye fatigue (there will always be people with some issues in this area, just like some people can’t watch IMAX because of motion sickness).

The Lowdown

I believe strongly that 3D is a good enough technology to earn a lasting spot in the evolution of video technology.  Movie theaters and movie makers have embraced 3D and people are flocking to the theaters to see it.  That will trickle down to putting on 3D glasses when you watch a movie at home (be it Blueray 3D or streaming 3D Video on Demand…yes that was also being demoed).  In it’s own right 3D gaming will pick up steam as the PS3 supports it and hardcore PC gamers install 3D ready cards.  Kids are always more receptive to this type of technology leap and they will play a large part in the adoption of 3D across both gaming and movies.

These two technologies will essentially squeeze the middle market into the 3D viewing experience.  It will be a natural evolution to watching some percentage of TV broadcasts in 3D.  The launch of 3D programming by both DirecTV and ESPN combined with various TV’s native ability to upconvert to 3D in realtime (even if that particular technology isn’t quite amazing…yet) will provide a significant amount of 3D content at launch so those early adopters will be rewarded.

Regardless the manufacturer or technology 3D is coming to your home and it’ll be readily available in 2010.



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