The evolution of the TV at home has been one of constantly improving picture and sound, with the latest home theatres offering superb quality in both. Naturally, electronics companies are looking for the next big enhancement that will send you back to your local tech store, armed with your credit card.
Their next big enhancement, from what we’ve seen here at CES, is 3D. Every notable player including Panasonic, LG, Sony, Samsung just to name a few, has been showing off prototype 3D TV systems. Some require special glasses and a few simply require you to sit a specific distance from the TV in order to get the full 3D effect.
You can understand why these companies seem convinced that 3D is the way of the future. When done well, the effect is dazzling. LG’s booth this year included a 3D theatre which used a projected 3D image similar to what you may have seen at a 3D IMAX movie. The clip they showed from U2 in 3D was spectacular – when Bono jumps from one platform to another, you’d swear he was just about to land in the theatre, not remain on the screen.
That particular example used special glasses, but I’ve seen some other kinds known as "autostereoscopic" that don’t require glasses, and the effect is even more dramatic.
But it also has me wondering: do we really want and/or need 3D at home?
Even as I type these words, I remember someone once asking the same question years ago when shown one of the first plasma TVs. Do we really need a 50 inch TV? The answer has been a resounding YES, given that sales of HDTVs have been increasing steadily and show no signs of abating.
That said, I’m not convinced it’s the same thing with 3D. On one hand, I really believe that every TV program or DVD or video game in significantly enhanced when displayed on large, wide, high-resolution set. Can the same be said for 3D? No doubt there are times when 3D increases your enjoyment of content – just ask anyone who has seen the 3D version of recent movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth. But a lot of our video content doesn’t need 3D to be enjoyed. Sitcoms, cooking shows, talk shows, news broadcasts – if they were 3D it might even distract you from the main purpose of the program.
So I’d like to propose this to any of the manufacturers that might be reading: When you bring these new 3D TVs to market, find a way to turn the 3D effect on and off. As much as I’ll enjoy watching the next installment of the Bourne or James Bond franchises in 3D, I’m quite content to watch my Frasier re-runs in good ol’, flat, 2D.
What’s your take? Can’t wait for 3D to arrive in your living room, or perfectly happy with flat picture?