3DTV: Why it will fail (for now)
Lots of noise is being made about 3DTV and how it’s the next big thing for TV. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t as exciting. Here are the reasons why 3DTV likely won’t catch on soon.
Anyone interested in gadgets and technology products has noticed that there has recently been a big push from the entertainment electronics makers for 3D TVs and other 3D products. During the IFA show that recently ended, there were exhibits and demonstrations of different 3D implementations left, right and center. Based on what I’ve seen from those who were there, there was a major unifying quality to all of them: They were disappointing.
Although a lot of products are starting to find their way to the market, and there is certainly a lot of hoopla around 3D, is it really the next big thing? Is it going to take over the market so that we’ll find ourselves all immersed in eye popping 3D by the 2011 holiday season?
We think it unlikely. There are a number of significant problems with 3D technology that present hurdles to users and that simply make it unattractive, if not downright useless.
Most 3D TVs require expensive, and uncomfortable active shutter glasses. When people want to watch a bit of TV while running around the house, or casually relaxing, this quite inconvenient. Also, if you want to watch with friends and family, that means you have to shell out a significant amount of money to ensure that you have enough of the glasses to go around.
Since consumer 3D TV is still a new concept, each manufacturer has been playing with their own way of implementing the technology. There aren’t necessarily any guarantees that one playback device will interoperate perfectly with every display. Compounding the problem is the glasses – you have to use the glasses that are specific to the brand of TV, and it is unlikely that any pair will work.
Lack of content
Right now there really isn’t exactly a wealth of compelling 3D content to choose from. In fact, there is next to nothing, with the exception of a few games that support it. Sure, in a little while, you can buy another expensive Blu-Ray player, and pre-order a copy of Avatar, with the hope that other titles become available… but it just doesn’t really seem like it’s worth the expense when the uses of a 3DTV are still so limited. Which brings me to the next item…
Cost of adoption
If you want to by a 3DTV, you’ll pay a hefty premium for it. Many 3D implementations don’t require a significant hardware change to the TV, but you’re still paying extra. Plus, you’ll need to buy a few pairs of those dorky-looking 3D glasses at well over $100 each. And what good is the TV when you don’t have something 3D to connect to it? You’ll need to buy the latest version of a supported game console system, and a new Blu-Ray player, and… if you want to make your own home videos, you’ll need to shell out a significant amount of money for one of those new 3D cameras. The list goes on and on. It is over the top even for the wealthiest of people, and is especially insulting to those who have recently purchased new TVs or players.
Poor viewing experience
Although the 3D effect may have an initial coolness factor, it wears off quickly. The glasses mean that the amount of light coming into your eyes is reduced by half, so it’s like watching TV with sunglasses on. On the current generation of screens without glasses, (which have very limited viewing angles and don’t work well on large screens), the resolution is also halved. Eventually, the effect gives many a headache, and it can be really difficult to focus on things. Even aside from that, most 3D effects look a bit like layers of paper cutouts, rather than realistic environments. It’s just not very compelling.
The market for 3DTV
At the end of the day, it is not what pundits think, but it is the market that will determine whether the current push for 3D pans out. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look any more promising. A recent Nielsen survey has shown that, out of a group of people who intend to buy a TV in the next 12 months, some people are interested in purchasing 3DTV — but once they actually experience it for themselves, their interest drops like a rock. The concerns mentioned above are too great.
3DTV doesn’t offer the obvious and substantial benefit that, for instance, the change from standard-definition to HD did. At the end of the day 3D in its current incarnation seems to be more of a gimmick or fad than anything truly useful and compelling. Eventually the technology may improve and the kinks will be ironed out, but I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be within the next few years.
What does the future hold for TV?
In a previous article, I wrote about the future of TV and talked about how it is clear that TVs are becoming an extension of computational devices in many ways. It seems pretty clear that the real future of TVs in the next few years will be a transition from passive screens that just present content to more enganging, interactive entertainment platforms that get content from the Web and give people greater control.
Only two weeks ago, we saw Apple unveil an updated Apple TV that lets users “rent” content from their store, or stream it from their computers and i-devices. Boxee has another, more open approach to the problem and also partnered with D-Link to make the Boxee Box. Roku also offers another popular product in this space.
Of course, this is the tip of the iceberg. TVs are starting to appear now that have this sort of functionality built right in, and I think that it is exciting, and that it represents a revolutionary change in what TVs can do. Opera is also working with these kinds of companies like Loewe, PeerTV, and Ocean Blue Software with Opera Devices. This allows for a quality web browsing experience to also be offered on devices like this, rounding out the capabilities to provide for one of the most important aspects of our computing needs. Opera also offers a cool widget program that allows for some pretty cool functionality – Choose Opera has a demonstration from our booth at IBC.
So although 3DTV currently seems disappointing and now might not be the time for it to make it big in the marketplace, it is clear that we will see some exciting changes to the capabilities of TV, and what role it serves in our home entertainment.