Almost every major TV maker including Sony, LG, Panasonic and Mitsubishi showed big screen 3D TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Even content providers such as ESPN, DirecTV and Discovery have promised 3D channels that will begin broadcasting in 2011.
But before you start saving to buy a 3D TV, consider the downsides. It’s not for everyone and it may not be as much fun as you think. Here are four problems that could keep 3D TVs out of your living room.
Watching 3D content can be exhausting
Remember when you mother told you that watching too much TV is bad for your eyes? In case of 3D TVs, she’s probably right.
3D TVs are likely to aggravate eyestrain in many people who have minor eye problems, say optical experts. And because they are such a new sensory experience, many viewers could end up with a headache, Dr Michael Rosenberg, an ophthalmology professor at Northwestern University told Reuters.
About 20 percent of people who saw a 3D movie did not like it because of the eyestrain, according to a survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. About five percent of people are also “stereoblind,” which means they cannot see depth by combining and comparing images from both eyes, says the firm.
And unlike regular TVs, 3D TVs are best experienced with dim lights at all times. So the classic World Cup scenario — a group of friends eating crisps and dips and getting up a few times to get some beer — won’t work, says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.
“It’s not going to work for any social viewing,” he says. “It’s going to be like, ‘let’s sit down and watch this movie,’ with the eyes focused on the screen all the time.”
That also means no flipping through magazines during commercials or watching 3D TV while making dinner. 3D TV demands utter and complete concentration. So sit down and focus.
And with all that sensory overload, you are more likely to feel fatigued after a few hours of 3D immersion.
3D glasses are a drag
Watching a clip of Monsters vs. Aliens or Avatar on a 3D TV can be fun. But first you have to need to put on a pair of compatible glasses — either specially polarised ones, or active shutter glasses that contain electronics synchronized with the images on the screen to deliver a 3D effect to your eyes.
Wearing glasses for a three-hour movie like Avatar is one thing. But doing it every day, day after day, can quickly become annoying.
Though active shutter or polarised 3D glasses are getting more lightweight and sleeker, there’s no escaping that they are still a pair of glasses you’ll have to wear every time you want to watch 3D video on your TV.
What’s also not clear is how 3D glasses will work for those who already wear prescription eyeglasses. For now, you just have to put them on over your regular glasses — hardly an elegant solution.
The glasses will also cost extra. Consumers who spend £1,000 on a 3D TV will have to shell out more to get a pair of glasses. Active shutter glasses can cost £100 a pop or more and for a big family, the cost can add up. Also, buyers need to factor in losses, because glasses can be misplaced easily.
TV makers will likely offer bundled deals where a pair or two of glasses are included with purchase of a TV set, but so far there have been no clear announcements.
And if you’re having friends over to watch a movie or a match, you’ll have to remind them to bring their own glasses. If they forget, they are out of luck.
Some companies, such as LG, Samsung and Mitsubishi, are showing prototypes of 3D TVs that require no glasses. But in that case, the TV can be a very limiting experience. 3D TVs without glasses have a very specific viewing range — four feet in some cases — and have very specific viewing angles, so they’re not well-suited to screenings with more than a small number of viewers.
Expensive for consumers and producers
For consumers, 3D is likely to work best for gaming and sports. Forrester’s McQuivey estimates the total hours a week a viewer might want to watch 3D content could be two to five hours. That’s just 10 percent to 20 percent of the average person’s total viewing time.
And for that bit of viewing pleasure, be prepared to shell out a few thousand bucks. Currently, 3D is only an option on relatively high end TVs costing £1,000 to £4,000 or more, and it adds about £500 to the sticker price of a 2D TV. You’ll also need to buy new peripherals, such as Blu-ray players, that conform to the 3D spec.
Creating 3D content will be an expensive process, as well. The production costs of a 3D movie are between 5 to 10 percent higher for computer-generated animation movies and 10 to 15 percent higher for live-action movies, estimates Pricewaterhouse Coopers in a research report. “Only a minority of films will be able to justify those costs, even in 10 years,” says David Wertheimer, CEO of USC Entertainment Center in the report.
Different formats cause confusion
LCD or Plasma? How big — 30 or 50 inches? Consumer decision-making around HDTVs has been simplified enough for anyone to walk into Comet and pick out a TV.
Buying a 3D TV will be more challenging. Glasses or no glasses? Active shutter glasses or polarised filter glasses?
Then there are differences in how the 3D effect is produced. Companies like Sony use alternate frame sequencing along with active shutter glasses for the 3D effect.
Meanwhile, LG and others are using different technologies to create the autosterescopy effect to create 3D TVs that require no glasses. (Read Wired.co.uk’s explainer on how different 3D TV technologies work.)
The average consumer may find it all extremely confusing and will have to learn new terms and technologies to cope with it.
For the coming year at least, most people will choose to stay with their regular, two-dimensional HDTVs.
Category: Tech News