Info and Answers
10 Reasons 3D Will Succeed
Why 3D will find an important niche in the home theater experience.
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April 15, 2010 by Stephen Hopkins

Our good friends over at eCoustics.com offered “10 Reasons 3D Might Fail.”

I was a little surprised to see such a forward-looking A/V news source predicting such blasphemy. It’s been a long time since a tech trend has generated as much buzz as 3D, and theater hits like “Avatar” and “Alice In Wonderland” have heightened consumer interest in 3D.

Here are my counter points as to why 3D TV will find an important niche in the home theater experience.

Glasses - Consumers have shown they’ll don 3D glasses in large public venues (i.e. theaters and theme parks). Why wouldn’t they do so in the privacy of their own home. Glasses are also a stop-gap as auto-stereoscopic technologies develop and the associated price tag softens.

TV Watching is Social - While 3D viewing may alter the social atmosphere, it also heightens immersion. The times 3D will be most interesting are the times you’re so immersed in the content that you won’t want to talk to the person next to you. It’s not for the news, SportsCenter, or AMC.

Compatibility - Nearly every major upgrade in home theater content has had associated hardware upgrades. Dolby Digital? DVD? HDTV? Blu-ray? All required new hardware to varying degrees. Some early adopters will abandon perfectly good equipment for the latest and greatest, while others upgrade through attrition. It’s all happened before and will happen again.

Lack of Content - Hardware and software are like the chicken and the egg. But in the A/V world, hardware almost always comes first and languishes a bit until some killer app (like “The Matrix” on DVD) pushes people to invest. Once the seal is broken, the trickle gains momentum and becomes a flood.

Confusion - The launch of HDTV in the U.S. caused more consumer confusion than any other technology roll-out of all time. While HDTV was slow to ramp-up and had a big government push behind it, it’s a success regardless of the confusion, and not every Joe Six Pack even saw the benefit of HDTV’s resolution, aspect ratio, and digital video/sound. It’s hard for anyone to say they physically don’t see what 3D offers.

Health Risks - It’s true that some people can’t see stereoscopic 3D effects. Another small minority can experience some discomfort or eye strain from extended viewing. The percentages of people affected by both categories vary wildly based on who you ask. Some warnings have been issued by electronics manufacturers, but you can find similar warnings for everything from cell phones to supermarket plastic bags. Until there is some substantial evidence to actual risks, these kinds of allegations are best left to Fox News.

Unwatchable 3D Footage - 3D content can easily be viewed in 2D. While it’s an either-or proposition (either everyone watches 3D or 2D), displays and content devices offer the ability to “flatten” 3D content to 2D. Since the 3D effect is generated by separate 2D images for each eye, showing only the left or right image effectively renders 3D content in 2D.

Just Good-enough Syndrome - While HDTV content and Blu-ray content haven’t replaced SD or DVD as de facto standards, saying they haven’t “taken off” is disingenuous at best. 3D isn’t meant to replace 2D, but augment it. Every major new technology has early adopters and those who hold back. 3D won’t be any different, but that doesn’t mean it will fail. DVD didn’t, surround sound didn’t, HDTV didn’t, and 3D won’t.

Discs are Dying - While 3D can require more storage space or bandwidth, it’s not reliant on a physical medium much, if any, more than HD video.

History Lessons - While the term “HDTV” may have been around 20 years before it reached market saturation, the digital HDTV broadcast in the U.S. occurred in the summer of 1996, and the ATSC standard wasn’t finalized until the fall of 1998. By 2001, HDTVs were becoming common place in big-box retailers. Twenty years is a huge stretch. Consumers have a short memory, and far more people are likely to remember their 3D theater experience and become interested in replicating it in their home (unless they see “Clash of the Titans”).

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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.

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