NEW YORK "Is my 3-D TV going to be safe?"
This is the last question anyone in the consumer electronics industry wants to hear right now — especially as the industry's fortunes for the next few years seem to be riding on a wide-range of 3-D-this, 3-D-that gadgets that are aimed directly down consumers' throats.
Nonetheless, Samsung has begged that unwanted question by posting a 3-D TV health hazards warning on its Australian website.
It's not entirely clear why Samsung is only posting a 3-D TV warning in Australia. But every new Samsung 3-D TV set -- sold today anywhere in the world, the United States included -- bears the very same health hazards warning, according to Chris Chinnock, President of Insight Media.
Call me naive, but I couldn't help wondering why such warnings are popping up now. After all, sales of 3-D Blu-ray and 3-D TV are already out of the barn.
If someone already knew of the even remote possibilities that 3-D TV viewing could cause an epileptic seizure, why push 3-D TV so hurriedly to the mass market? More important, how does this sort of warning guide your typical soccer mom contemplating the purchase of a 3-D TV for her kids this fall? Does she swear off 3-D forever, or does she merely put her local seizure clinic on speed-dial?
Insight Media's Chinnock suspects that this is a Samsung's "CYA (cover your ass) move." It's entirely possible that someone could sue Samsung in the future, claiming that 3-D TV made him pitch a fit. As a vendor, "you have to think of every possible scenario, and be prepared to say that you are not liable," said Chinnock.
Proving a negative
OK. So, is the 3-D industry saying that the verbiage on the TV box is all legalese that bears little relationship to any actual consumer health issue?
Not exactly. "It's a tough one," said Chinnock. "There has not been enough research out there" to prove or disprove the case for 3-D TV health hazards.
When I was talking to Koji Hase, president of worldwide consumer electronics at Real D six months ago, he pointed out that not a single health problem has been reported among hundreds of professionals who've been working, many years, in an environment where similar visual 3-D tools are used.
The problem in any science, though, is that proving a negative is always much more difficult than proving a positive.