Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

27
Sep 10

3D: to be or not to be?


If anyone can laugh and cry over 3D, it’s CE retailers. We want to offer the best in the latest technology, but what happens when the technology isn’t met with quite the excitement that the industry expected? Although 3D technology is questionable in the minds of HDTV customers, one thing is for certain, 3D HDTVs provide the absolute pinnacle of TV technology: unbelievably fast processing, HDMI 1.4 support plus the audio return channel, the smoothest video upscaling, and greater resolution. The fact of the matter is, whether you’re into 3D movies or not, you’ll still have the best video display machine out there.

But the new 3D technology goes beyond movies, and this niche market could make the best use of 3D. If your favorite pastime involves a console, a controller, and an unquenchable desire to perfect your time trials, you already know that. Take, for example, Gran Turismo 5. (We’re not showing bias here, GT5 just happens to be the most talked about 3D gaming experience this year.) What could possibly be better than becoming one with your machine, experiencing the thrill of cornering, shifting, accelerating—and real-time, deformation-engine-induced damage? This kind of trance-enhancing video is elevated to an even dreamier state in 3D. And why not? What better medium for the third dimension than graphical computer animation?

Yes, one does have to admit that the beauty of virtual 3D—3D that is produced via virtual stereoscopic cameras—is that it is fundamentally a perfect science. It doesn’t require fragile camera components capable of sub-nanometer precision. It (merely) requires a group of developers with distinctive programming abilities. And it is capable of producing stunning results. But it begs the questions. What are gamers looking for if they’re aren’t looking for the latest physiology-altering experience?

As a matter of fact, popular gamer opinion indicates a slight disdain for the whole 3D gaming movement. And maybe the issue boils down to assuming gamers aren’t savvy about their technological niche beyond racking up kills or rewards. But they are savvy. As a matter of fact, they have the same concerns as HDTV customers: proprietary peripherals like 3D glasses are a hassle and limit the amount of players that can engage, the cost of 3D HDTVs and peripherals is too high, and there’s concern that the gaming hardware doesn’t have the processing power to handle 3D. But, as opposed to the average HDTV customer, gamers have already been experiencing 3D video for years via their computers. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of 3D PC titles available right now; henceforth, there must be interest in the technology or manufacturers wouldn’t be producing the content. So the question goes beyond whether gamers are interested in 3D technology, it’s whether they want to watch it on a 17” computer screen or a 55” plasma HDTV.

If you’re a disbeliever right now, you might not want to throw the technology out with the bath water just yet. Remember that crazy network thing those guys started up back in the Eighties, the subsequent speculating, and then that burst bubble? Well, here we are, and look at how far the internet technology has come despite the setbacks. If you’re not happy with 3D technology, wait five minutes. Heck, by next week, we might all be living in 3D. (Oh, yeah, we already are.) Anyway, somebody out there has to be listening, or at least observing the numbers. And if the cost of 3D technology comes down, consumers will probably be far more excited.

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that we’re creatures of habit. It seems we want change, but we don’t actually want to have to change. Kind of oxymoronic, but one doesn’t have to look very far back to see the pattern. When DVD players first came out, few were willing to cough up $1500 for one. Now that they’re a dime a dozen, every household probably has two or three. Initially, the argument appeared to be directed towards an unnecessary technology, but really it kind of just boiled down to, “I’m not going to pay for the hassle of inconveniencing my life. I might consider it though once the technology has permeated every aspect of existence.”

To prove my point, nobody’s complaining about the app craze because there’s no reason to. Turn on the TV, push a button, get Netflix or Pandora. Easy. Effortless. Entertaining. Well worth the cost. And soon enough the cost of 3D will come down. Somehow content providers will create a niche. Somehow we’ll convince ourselves it’s not so bad. Or will we? Why wouldn’t 3D make the entertainment shortlist?  I’m interested in getting a consensus. What do you think?



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