3D TV: Don’t Try This at Home … Yet

Concerns about vision fatigue, competing glasses standards and signal interference — let alone what’s available to watch — still need resolution

Has anyone seriously considered bringing a 3D television set into their home?

I’ve been working in the 3D entertainment world for the last three years, two of which were in research and development for a major Japanese consumer electronics company. Working in R&D was an amazing experience; I got to witness the development of cutting-edge technology for home use by consumers.

Unfortunately, the transition from concept to reality for 3D is not simple.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic about 3D. On the contrary, I’m a strong supporter of it. I’m a big fan of movies such as "Up" and "Avatar," and after seeing the trailer for "Step Up 3D," I can’t wait to see it.

But I do want to be realistic. So let’s get to the point: What 3D content is out there we can watch?

Comcast says it is going to provide 3D coverage of Tiger Woods’ return to golf at the Masters next month. But seriously, is that going to make me run to Best Buy to buy a 3D TV? No way.

ESPN, Discovery and Britain’s Sky TV have announced that they will begin broadcasting content in 3D in the near future.

But near future or distant, the fact is there is not much 3D content for TV right now.

And what about the glasses? Will consumers want to sit at home and put glasses on to watch football? Maybe. There are cool glasses coming out — at least the ones made for Real D, which I saw at last week’s ShoWest in Las Vegas.

But here’s the problem: The glasses are not standardized. In other words, Samsung’s 3D glasses are not compatible with Panasonic’s TVs.

It seems television manufacturers are so competitive in their rush to beat their competitiors to market that they refuse to speak to each other. A standardization task force is in the works, which should improve the situation, but for now the consumer ends up paying extra for this.

Considering that some of these 3D glasses will cost $30-$50, it is really expensive if you want to invite 10 friends to watch the Super Bowl in 3D at your place — and let’s not forget we’re in the middle of a recession.

And what about the wireless signals these 3D TVs distribute? Can they handle multiple signals? We live in a wireless world, and introducing another frequency to the home will not make our lives any easier.

Speaking to a ShoWest vendor who wishes to remain anonymous, I learned that the multiplicity of wireless signals from all the consumer electronics companies’ 3D television sets at January’s Consumer Electronics Show caused many of the 3D TV sets not to function properly.

What about the studies of vision fatigue by professors at UC Berkeley? Can you imagine the consumer outrage if thousands of viewers buy 3D televisions, only to discover that they can’t watch them for more than 20 minutes at a time?

Truly, 3D is a captivating technology. It provides a new medium for the creative community and new worlds for audiences to explore.

What I do fear, however, are the big misconceptions out there. After leaving ShoWest in Las Vegas, I could only think of 3D’s failed attempt decades ago, and wonder if history will be repeated with the 3D TV.

Nevertheless, when done right, 3D is a creative medium that enhances our experience at movie theaters. It is a creative tool that needs to be studied and understood to work properly.

One bad 3D experience could surely create a big enough backlash for someone to be permanently turned off. And that’s in no one’s best interest.