I haven’t come across anyone who has, and my question is “why the heck would anyone go to the trouble?”
3DTV was all the rage at the recent Consumer Electronics Show; just about every TV manufacturer was desperately pushing their version of 3D.
The variations on the technology are baffling, some have active glasses, some have passive glasses, there are disposable glasses and Toshiba now has a “no glasses” version. Pricing is all over the place—depending upon the implementation—with larger screens selling for around $5,000 in the U.S.
But the confusion and expense of the hardware is not the problem. The lack of content will keep this technology from catching on. There was not a single 3D content agreement announced at CES this month, so what chance do the manufacturers have?
3DTV is a technology looking for an application, a common occurrence in electronics. Just because we can do something with an invention doesn’t mean the world needs it. (This is fruitful territory for a later blog; think Talking lights).
3DTV has been around for a long time; EE Times Editor Junko Yoshida of EE Times has been writing about it since the early 2000s. Rick Merritt (also of EE Times) wrote a great piece last year after CES on how it will take time for the technology, content and standards to shake out, and it’s still in flux.
Echoes of the past
All this reminds me of my weekend high school job at a stereo store. We had a quadraphonic system from (I think) Pioneer, which was on demo. Everyone wanted to hear it and play with the joystick that controlled the speaker sound field. But we only had one disc (yes, vinyl) that was true quadraphonic so that issue with content repeats itself today.
That Pioneer system was on demo for a year and didn’t sell.
Just to make sure my prejudices weren’t clouding reality I took a field trip to a local Best Buy electronics superstore to check out the latest offerings and it was underwhelming.
A demo for the Panasonic Viera was out of order, the Sony demo with active glasses was working but made the 3D image seem very artificial and even a little forced. Samsung had an interesting bundle with a Blu-ray player and a sound bar at a very attractive price but there were no glasses for a demo and no 3D content running on the screen.
Of all the TVs on display, the 3D versions make up a very small percentage. I didn’t see anyone looking at them, and the usually tenacious sales staff left me alone. Interestingly, Best Buy just announced an insurance program protecting buyers against TV obsolescence with a 50% trade in value (there is a catch though), so even Best Buy thinks the confusion over 3D is crimping sales.
Why is all this important from a semiconductor perspective? A third of all ICs are consumed by 10 companies. These are mainly consumer electronics companies, so the impact of sales of TVs has a huge impact on our industry.
3D TV is never going to be a real driver of semi sales in 2011 or even 2012 because the value proposition just isn’t there for consumers; I doubt it will ever come.
As I was leaving Best Buy with my kids (who were more interested in games and the Kinect by the way) we saw George Lucas walking in, maybe he was going to check 3D out as well?
David Blaza is senior vice president of UBM Electronics (the company that publishes EE Times and EDN). David has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and publishing experience in the technology sector working for companies as diverse as IBM, Motorola, Mars Electronics, CMP and now United Business Media. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford, England (BS, Materials Science) and the University of Stirling, Scotland (MS in Economics & Technology).
I didn't catch the glasses-free Toshiba 3D at CES, but Sony's little 22.5 inch no-glasses 3D display was impressive. I could still see the 3D effect and no double image from about a 45 degree angle to either side.
But I agree with your conclusion that 3D is a non-starter, at least for the next few years. It suffers from many of the same issues we faced with HDTV in the early years -- lack of content and high equipment prices.
I first saw HD content on an HD display in 1997, but I did not personally buy an HDTV until 2004. I don't know if the lag time will be as long for me to take the 3D plunge, or if the price premium for 3D without glasses will ever be low enough to compel me to make a purchase.
The transition from standard def to high-def was revolutionary, but the same cannot be said for the transition (if indeed it is a transition) from 2D to 3D.
Nice to see that someone in the industry has the guts to say that the 3D emperor has no clothes,that it is a "solution" to a problem the customers don't seem to think they have, that's it's really more of a whipped-up marketing push than a needed or useful product.
You may be barred from next year's CES....
The basic problem is that the experience just isn't worth the trouble.
With ordinary 2-D movies, everyone PERCEIVES depth anyway; we watch the action and see things as though in depth. There isn't any need for physical 3-dimensional images. What causes us to like a movie is the plot, the screenplay, and the acting -- and none of these requires physically real depth. As for other forms of entertainment, who cares whether actors sitting around on a talk show are three-dimensional or not?
It's the same with the Sunday funnies: Cartoons are ridiculously unrealistic; but, we understand the activities depicted frame-by-frame in grossly unphysical 2-D, and we read them anyway.
My take is that:
Consumer 3D was at a serious mood at CES-2011 to say the least. Brushing it off on various grounds would be a mistake.
When a 3D camera is available under $500, 3D is certainly poised to take off. It is the user and their own contents that is gonna rule while professional grade 3D contents are in the making. Just think, how much time does an average user spend on youtube vs. TV these days? ...hope you see what I am pointing to.
3D is at a great beginning, I think. With this we have a great opportunity of innovation. Let us get serious folks!!!
I really like the analogy to quadraphonic sound systems. It's here, it works, people like it BUT it's expensive, there's little content and there's incompatibility problems. Likewise, I expect it to go away, people laugh at how the ridiculus the idea was and it will come back in 20 years, like surround sound.
A large problem with 3D is that too often the technology drives the content with the story being, at best, secondary. 3D has to come to the point where it is just there, part of the background (and foreground I guess)and you are so involved with the story you no longer pay attention to the 3D.
I've heard, however, the 3D sports is a lot of fun, especially golf (go figure). The SuperBowl has sold thousands of big-screen TVs, maybe it will kick-off 3D sales (sorry for the pun, it just kind of fell off my fingers).
I think 3D-TV has larger problems than lack of content...I tried a few systems and I get dizzy...quite unpleasant and unnatural experience...I highly doubt I am special so there must millions people like me who will not ever buy it...I think it is a classic of "let's build it and they will come"...Kris
The 3D projection of scenes or films will come a day using holographical techniques. The images will be projected in a space in front of us. That is real 3D. But what ever is done on a LCD panel or a screen of 2 dimensions is not a 3D
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