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).
When TV's can display standard HD TV and with a push of a button convert to a 3D TV and be viewed without glasses, the market will explode. People want simplicity and will pay extra for the technology if it's easy to use. Apple's products are a good example.
The success of 3D TV relies not on how it attract you to watch it, but how to make you a part of the scene.
Think this is super-bowl, we couch potatoes feel like sitting in the stadium, or even run along with Payton Manning, that's fantastic!
Dunno what all the fuss is about. The forensic crime labs have had true 3d for ages, to the extent that they can even rotate the image in all directions. Just watch shows like CSI.
It's not real?
But it's on TV, it must be real
This company from Perth, Western Australia has been working on 2D to 3D conversion for years:
(In case the forum removes that link, search for "DDD" and their "Tridef Realtime 3D".)
@BicycleBill: if one is barred from the future CES shows, there is always the blackjack table! (:0
I think many posters have pointed rightfully the lack of content that elevate consumer experience. I would add lack of standards to the top of the list. There are already a multitude of 3D TV versions that are popping up that make it confusing to the customer. Ergonomics and consumer safety is another concern that needs to be addressed (see @iniewski's post).
I suppose I will grow old waiting for that holographic projection TV! That to me is truly 3D. My kids genuinely believe experiencing a star-trek like holodeck isn't that far off!
Dr. MP Divakar
The big fault of 3D TV is that it offers very little advantage to any except the sellers of 3D equipment. It is a fairly useless product desperately hoping to find a market, which will be a bunch of people fast-talked into purchasing "the latest thing". Most of those who tell us how wonderful it is are those who will profit from it, that is what I see presently. Not to forget that the lack of content is quite a drag, as well. Really, it is a waste of talent, effort, and materials. We just don't need it.
I must agree with DutchUncle. This article is quite pessimistic. The industry obvious sees that the market is viable, and to say that there is too little content is definitely not very forward-thinking. I believe there were many saying that about HDTV not so long ago.
What appears to drive the market (at least from my observation) for new technologies is the cost to the buyer. The cost for a 3D television has dropped significantly over the past year and the broadcast content (what little there currently is available) is being included in the HD packages from the service providers. If that trend continues as more content (channels) are offered, then the adding 3D capability for the buyer can be done with an incremental added cost.
Many manufacturers are creating package deals with 3D Blu-ray players and movies (and extra 3D glasses) in an attempt to move more 3D televisions. Several movies are being released for 3D Blu-ray too. The content is starting to grow at a quick pace. It's just a matter of momentum and a little time.
The comparison to Quadraphonic sound is apt. Yes, it did come back as Surround Sound 20 years later, but our music CDs are still not in surround sound, and even though I just purchased a 55" TV, I have no plans to wire my living room for rear channel sound.
I think compression artifacts will sabotage the 3D material for years to come, and for many people the "focus distance versus perception distance" will cause strain when viewing. As since I wear strong eyeglasses, sticking active 3D viewing glasses on top will not be comfortable enough to "just immerse myself and forget the technology".
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