3D TV; First Failure of the New Decade (Updated 7/5/13)

UPDATE July 5, 2013

According to a post by Broadband TV News:

“The BBC is to take a three-year holiday from the development of 3D programming with the corporation’s head of 3D admitting the UK public had not taken to the format.”

“Watching 3D is quite a hassly experience in the home. You have got to find your glasses before switching on the TV. I think when people watch TV they concentrate in a different way. When people go to the cinema they go and are used to doing one thing – I think that’s one of the reasons that take up of 3DTV has been disappointing.”

Another nail in the coffin of this expensive experiment.  If Dolby and others can perfect the non-glasses viewing of 3D, there may be a chance for a limited comeback.   For now TV and chip manufacturers are working hard on 4K with set already hitting the early adopter market.

Too bad the BBC didn’t read my posting 3 years ago.  They could have been ahead of the curve with 4K.

Keep Pushing Forward




Original 2010 Posting

The flurry of  press releases following CES 2010 extolling the virtues of 3D in the living room reminds me of sage advertising advice;  “Don’t believe your own hype!”

A Harder Mountain to Climb: As stated in a recent article in Broadband TV News:  “The road from HD to 3D is ‘a harder mountain to climb’, according to the US based research institute NSR, because ‘equipment required to bring 3D from the cinema into the living room is neither on the shelves, nor on wish lists of the general viewing public’.  Difficult facts to ignore.

HD has gained market share not only because of the quality of the image (although most in the US with HD sets do not subscribe to HD services) but because of the large screen, thin profile, built in ATSC, improved energy efficiency, surround sound, etc.  And one of the most compelling reason; their old tube sets were finally wearing out.  Even though the price of the 36″ to 50” screens have come down, they still represent more than just an impulse buy.

Economics 101: Least anyone forget, the world is still mired in an economic crisis.  The US is still experiencing 10% unemployment overall with some regions much higher.  Foreclosures are still rising with no end in sight and retirement investments have yet to recover from being halved in the last 2 years.  Yes, we may be climbing out, but with predictions of no new jobs until 2012, and credit card limits trimmed, aside from those getting bonuses from bailed out banks and Wall Street Robber-Barons, where will the cash come from?  Or are we supposed to think that consumers will lease their next TV from the ‘Bank of Sony’?

Embracing the New Technology – Why? So whatever would possess the “average consumer” to replace their new HD big screen TV with a 3D set so they can get two or three channels in 3D on a sporadic basis?  Will the subscription tier for 3D programming drive their cable bill over $200/month?  Or will 3D programs only be ‘events’ like the Ultimate Fighting Death Matches available for ‘only’ $69.95?

Forget About the Remote, Where Did I Put Those G– D— Glasses? !!!!! A recent NY Times article gave a rundown of the 3D glasses available to movie houses – from sleek $50 models to cheap ones for 65 cents.  Which gets one to thinking about the feasibility of putting on a strange set of glasses every time you want to watch TV.  There are some anecdotal accounts of viewers getting headaches and difficulty putting 3D glasses over the top of their prescription lenses.  (Perhaps Best Buy will include a coupon for Lasik Surgery with every new set.)  And how many pairs will each household need?  Ok, you have one for Mom, Dad and each of the kids (child sized, of course).  So it looks like your out of luck when you want to show off your new toy to the neighbors.  Unless they stop at a Radio Shack on the way to get their own pair.

The economic news will get better (someday) and consumers will want to upgrade their living room TVs.  But the consumer electronics marketplace is filled with many more serious contenders than it was when TV was king.  3D TV may have a place in the market, but for now, it just a novelty, attracting the attention of the early adopters.

Keep Pushing Forward

Jeff Vinson


[You may contact Jeff directly for consulting  opportunities.]


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5 Responses to “3D TV; First Failure of the New Decade (Updated 7/5/13)”

  1. Almont Green Says:

    It’s not going to be nearly as technology driven as it will be content driven. DVD technology was more convenient than VHS and delivered higher quality. But without content being released for it, who would have bought a DVD just to have a DVD? For 3D there will need to be 3D content that people want to watch in 3D. When that happens, it will take off in a very big way. Until then, not so much.

    This can happen, but not as fast as the consumer electronics industry WANTS it to.

    Avatar is one movie. And it was by no means a perfect 3D movie. When we have 100’s of movies equal to or better than Avatar… then we will be talking consumer market penetration possibilities.

    In the meantime, it is likely that video gaming might make some inroads.

    Some are predicting porn will be huge. I’m not versed in that market so I can’t speak to it.

    All in all, I wouldn’t count 3D out so quickly. There are many benefits to watching content with stereopsis. It is, afterall, the way that we see the world.

  2. Mark Robinson Says:

    The first I heard of 3DTV was reading an article in Popular Electronics in 1976. The concept did not use glasses but was a 3D image projected into a space in the room. The 3D projector was ceiling mounted and viewers could sit anywhere – around or even inside of the image. That technology has been slowly researched for 30 years. I recently read an online article that some students and professors in Japan are carrying on the research and have predicted that they will have such a working prototype within 5 years. The article claimed that they were successful in generating a 3D image without glasses as recently as 6 months ago in controlled conditions.

  3. Jeff Campbell Says:

    Amen Jeff. You piece perfectly echoes my feelings on the 3D TV issue.

    It is 10 years away. The economics, for both macro (economy) and micro (personal financial situation) don’t make sense for the mainstream consumer. No mainstream consumer demand, no financial justification for content. No content, no demand. 3D in the home is going nowhere fast and it is a little alarming just how forthy the CE market has gone over 3D this year.

    -Jeff C.

  4. joel kollin Says:

    3D TV will be a niche product initially, just like HD was. That doesn’t mean companies will lose money on them. Once the engineering is done the difference in cost per set is probably not that high, and its something that gives people an excuse to buy a second 1080p set for the living room.

    The killer app is gaming, not pay-per-view. The nVidia glasses are quite comfortable and not too expensive (although the emitter should be cheaper.) The gaming experience is greatly enhanced.

    Tales of economic woe not withstanding, the unemployment rate for college-degreed people under 50 is still quite low, and that’s who will buy these things.

  5. Jeff Brum Says:

    My company provides 3D stereo technology to commercial companies and research organizations. We hear frequently that content is king. I agree that 3D TV and movie content will be slow getting into homes but it is coming.

    There are other content sources that have great potential. Hundreds of 3D PC games are available now. Gaming console makers will introduce 3D equipment. 40% of US households have a gaming console and a percentage of those will change/upgrade over time or 3D may entice new users. 3D gaming is pretty compelling. A large screen that will display 3D TV, games and movies becomes more interesting. Consider also the potential for user generated content as 3D cameras come available, like the new one from Fuji. 3D stills and home movies could be more than a novelty.

    Mitsubishi was smart in marketing their sets as ‘3D Ready’ – if you are considering a large screen TV, buy one that will display the TV/movie content that will come and/or 3D games when you are equipped to play them. I read recently that over 50% of US households have at least one HDTV. Early adopters are upgrading. If someone is in the market for their first HD set, they may pay the incremental difference to be 3D ready. The incremental difference will continue to decline.

    As for glasses, only time will tell if people will wear them for long periods. In some commercial applications, they will because the data has tremendous value. Whether or not consumers find the available and coming 3D content compelling enough will be interesting. We don’t want to hear (modifying Bruce Springsteen a bit), “57 3D channels and nothin on.”

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