While one can debate the quality of 3D movies, from epic productions like Avatar that engineered custom 3D rigs to get the right effect to slapdash conversions (like Clash of the Titans) that at best disappoint and worse make people queasy, one can’t debate that 3D is here to stay.
The transition of 3D into the home hasn’t been so successful. 3D TV’s are perceived as expensive, and lacking available content, much the same position HDTV was in about 5 years ago. But the real issue people seem to complain about is having to wear special glasses.
The first round of 3D TV’s required relatively expensive glasses which cost about $125+ a pair that are limited to the specific TV set you are using. Outfitting a family of 4 would add an additional $500 to the average 3D TV purchase typically around $3000. Well out of the range of our average impulse purchase, especially in contrast to the rapidly dropping price of HD flat screen TVs that cost about a third of that.
The Active shutter technology blocks off either eye at a very rapid rate allowing a user to see two different images that the brain perceives as 3D. Two new technologies are hitting the marketplace that will start to change the rate of 3D adoption; Passive Glasses (Circular Polarizing) and “Glasses Free” technologies. The passive glasses use a polarizing filter which limits the angle of what you see from each eye, and allows you to perceive 3D and the glasses free technologies use a form of a lenticular lens to do the same, but without glasses at all (as long as you sit in the right place in the room)
Both technologies are available, but large (over 40in) glasses Free HDTV’s haven’t yet had a commercial release in the US. Only one Passive 3D HDTV is widely available in the US, but most manufacturers are planning to release Passive 3D HDTV’s in the coming year.
This brings us back to content, while most people can imagine watching a 3D movie like Avatar from their home, they don’t yet see much benefit in the technology for day to day viewing. But as 3D content materializes, I believe that more and more people will make 3D their go-to option, as many do when first turing on a standard resolution channel and then remembering that a HD channel of the same content is available.
While 3D TV’s have struggled to gain traction, it appears that Mobile is about to get a huge 3D shot in the arm. Next week Nintendo releasing the 3Ds, a glasses free 3D version of their incredibly popular portable game system. This has the potential of putting glasses free 3D technology in the hands of millions of children and adults relatively overnight.
Not to be outdone, the mobile device makers have started adding 3D displays to Tablets and Mobile Phones. LG and HTC have both announced Mobile Phones with glasses free 3D displays.
The response from the technical press has been mixed; Engadget’s review of some of these phones was relatively postitive:
“AT&T showed off a new 3D set today, the LG Thrill 4G — also known as the LG Optimus 3D — and as we’ve seen before, the 3D glasses-free display is quite fun… With Sprint’s launch of the EVO 3D just a couple hours ago, we’re thinking 3D in handsets may not be a passing trend”
Meanwhile Gizmodo took an entirely different stance as they unleashed a world of backlash against the 3D everything trend:
“Immersion on a 4-inch screen, whether 2D or 3D, makes as much physical sense as brushing your hair with a trident. It’s not possible, unless we’re willing to bend our definition of “immersed” to the point of meaninglessness. A window of image that small, relative to everything else your eyes are grabbing, just doesn’t stimulate you the same way. Size matters.
Which is why shoehorning 3D onto a phone’s tiny screen is beyond gimmicky—it’s plain conceptually dumb.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I’m very excited to see if any interesting interfaces or experiences can be created based on highly portable 3D displays.