3D TV, the Future of Living Room Entertainment

TV makers, networks are pledging to make the technology real

The concept of 3D television has dominated this year's Consumer Electronics Show, with major manufacturers showing off televisions that can carry the techology that was once thought to be a rare movie theater treat. But what's making real news are the content providers that are now pledging programming that will literally jump off your screen.

ESPN has announced it will broadcast sporting events in 3D starting with this year's World Cup in June. Discovery Communications also announced they will launch a 3D channel in 2011 in a joint venture with Imax and Sony. Panasonic and DirecTV are teaming up to create three 3D satellite channels by June.  Samsung, Dreamworks and Technicolor announced an alliance for the "delivery of a complere 3D home entertainment solution" in 2010.

But will it catch on like HD TV's eventually did? Or will the 3D revolution be squashed by expensive and ungainly equipment -- and just plain weirdness?

  • Nick Bilton of The New York Times thinks the cost will doom the 3D movement. "Imagine having to pay another two or three thousand dollars to replace the crystal-clear high-definition flat-panel television you just bought for Christmas (for a third of the price). Then imagine having to watch any of those aforementioned shows or movies while wearing a pair of $50 3-D glasses. Then having to buy another five or more pairs of $50 3-D glasses for family members or friends to watch with you." Bilton also wonders what will happen if "I want to watch shows like 'Seinfeld,' or 'Everyone Loves Raymond'? Will I really want to experience these in 3-D too?"
  • Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune also fixates on the overall cost of the operation, breaking down what the technology means for both the consumer and enormous media companies. "The hope is that when awe-struck by the lifelike illusion of images coming off the screen, we won't notice the very real cash leaving us -- or better still, we won't mind," he writes. But he speculates that "because we lack the bucks for the new high-tech TVs that will be needed to enjoy the full effect, this development is one that doesn't yet look as though it's headed straight at most of us."
  • Nick Summers of Newsweek says the technology is real and viable -- if only to keep the cable companies alive in an age when so many people watch TV and movies online. "But sports, delivered live and in large-format HD—that's something the Internet is not yet capable of," he writes. "Making the visuals more awesome, to use a highly technical term, is the only way to compete with what video delivered over the Internet offers in choice, convenience, portability, and cost. I would love, love, love to ditch my cable payment. But I would also love to see Alex Ovechkin tearing down the ice in three dimensions."
  • David Colker of The Los Angeles Times notes that "one of the major barriers for 3-D TV has been a lack of content." But with providers lining up and teaming up to create that content, "it would bring a steady supply of 3-D to its customers," making the technology an exciting reality.
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