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Why 3D TV Creeps Me Out

CES is a toy show for adults and this year’s CES showcased bigger, better, and more expensive toys than ever. The year’s hottest toy was undoubtedly 3D.

The TVs came to CES in a dizzying display of shapes and sizes. Mobs of people wearing special 3D glasses made it feel like you were walking into the cast of Mission Impossible. All were staring at cathedral-sized walls of 3D piled upon 3D. Those of us old enough to remember the red/blue cardboard glasses we got at the movies remember that the only decent part about the 3D experience was faking those “scary moments” as an excuse to grab the hand of a dates.

After three decades of hibernation, 3D is back to stay. The buzz on the street was that the Samsung quality was unbeatable. One of the features that people really loved, called proximity sensing, turns on the TV for you automatically when you pop into view. Most of the TVs on the show floor were LCD TVs that use special active shutter glasses. The glasses provide the illusion of 3D by switching quickly between your two eyes.

panasonic_152_plasma_0735-540x359Panasonic, unlike the others, will stick to plasma and will be first to market a reasonable TV. And LG’s Infinia line of 3D-ready TVs has just the hint of an edge. Mostly it is just a beautifully designed thin piece of glass.
acer_aspire_3d_notebookIt wasn’t only 3D TVs–the Acer Aspire 3D is the world’s first 3D notebook. And since it starts at $799 it’s a great way to get your feet wet with 3D without drowning in expensive 3D televisions. The Sony PlayStation demonstrated future 3D qualities as well.

Bottom line: 3D glasses, though much improved, are still kinda creepy to watch TV in. Viewing from a side angle blurs the picture, and there’s still very little content to choose from.

Right now it’s a tough sell. You need to witness 3D in the flesh or you’ll be disappointed with what you buy. Animations look more natural than sports or nature photographically, probably because you’re willing to believe animation can have little butterflies flying around your head.

To my eye, real images like landscape footage seem either to be jumping at you in multiple steps, or sometimes recessed into a background that sprints out at you. Sony and Nvidia’s 3D both looked incredible, but it could have just been better footage. As of now, 3D filmmaking requires a special, very expensive film camera made by just a few manufacturers like Mitsubishi and Sony.

After 30 years of watching CES cycles of product introductions, I’ve got a rule about this. Three years from CES to mass market, so watch out, they’re coming at you–in 3D.

But just you wait. Already ESPN, Sony, Discovery, and IMAX have announced 3D networks. (Ouch about that hockey stick in my face!) As they say in CES Land: It’s not a matter of why, it’s a matter of when.