Television Good Enough to Touch

Remember that fancy HDTV you just bought? You know, the one you saved for just so you could watch football/Dancing with the Stars/Blu-ray in the full detail they were meant to be seen?

Yeah, that’s totally obsolete now.

Because this summer is the dawn of the 3D TV era. Several TV manufacturers (including Sony, Samsung and Panasonic) have already introduced 3D televisions, and ESPN is currently broadcasting the World Cup in 3D. DirecTV and Panasonic have launched two broadcast channels and one on-demand channel in full 3D, while overseas, SkySports has already begun airing in 3D. And Sony has licensed its Blu-ray technology for 3D, so expect to see the floodgates open on 3D movies soon.

Sony has also promised that its popular PlayStation3 video game console will be capable of displaying video games and movies in full 3D. A firmware update in June gave the device the ability to play 3D games, and an upcoming update is expected to make the Blu-ray player full 3D too.

But is the 3D change really here for good? Consider the new costs (that might make adoption prohibitive for some people). Currently, 3D televisions cost about as much as high-end HDTVs. But that doesn’t include the glasses you’ll need to buy (see diagram for more on how glasses make the image come to life), which can run up to $150 a pair. So for a family of four, tack on an extra $600.

Ironically, you could also drop all of that money and not even be able to see 3D. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, approximately 5-10 percent of people are born with stereo blindness, or the inability to see 3D images. And there are already warnings for people who might experience health issues from watching television in 3D, including children, senior citizens, pregnant women or drunk people. So if you have any old or young people in your house, look out.

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Will the drawbacks outweigh the attractions for 3D TV? It remains to be seen. If developers and movie studios can figure out how to harness 3D to truly enhance a visual experience (a la Avatar) and not just tack it on like a lame gimmick (we’re looking at you, Clash of the Titans), 3D could be one of the coolest things to happen since, well, HD. Until they prove it’s worth it, you can probably enjoy this summer’s rendition of Wipeout just fine in 2D.

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