This article was published 14 years ago
SXSW 2010

3DTV has an unknown future

SXSW 3DTV 3D demostration
Panasonic’s 3DTV demonstration at SXSW – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou
Austin, Tex.

TV makers are betting that 3DTV will be the next innovation that changes the TV landscape – just as HDTV broadcast did several years ago. The 3D movement is already gaining ground with the announcement of several 3D networks like ESPN, Disney, and Discovery at the Consumer Electronic show in Las Vegas, Nev.

TV manufactures are now rolling out 3DTV models available for buy and Panasonic had a 3DTV model on display at the SXSW interactive festival in Austin, Tx.

The company announced that its’ 3DTV Plasma TV will make its’ nationwide debut available for sale at Best Buy stores next week for $2499. The TV maker will also sell a 3dTV/Blu-ray combo for $2,899. Two 3D glasses will be included with the TV set. Additional 3D glasses will be $150.

Panasonic had a demo unit for SXSWi attendees to view the 3DTV. The glasses were big and bulky – almost looking like safety goggles at a construction site. They felt cumbersome went I put them on, almost like I was wear swimming goggles. The representative also directed to me that we sit directly in-front of the four senors that surrounded the TV set. Hopefully, this won’t be an issue when it goes on sale to the public next week.

Since there were so many people in the demo truck, I had to sit on the ground. I don’t know if this was a common problem with the demo but my eyes hurt immediately when I left the demo, like I was doing an intense-studying session for an exam or the SATs. That incident was the first time I had any problems with viewing 3D content; I never had this problem when I saw Avatar or Coraline. And I never had to take my glasses off at anytime during the movie.

Even with the eye problems after the demonstration, viewing the 3D content was spectacular. The viewing session had the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Summer games and theatrical trailer for Avatar. Probably the best part of the film was the errors in capturing the footage, especially when the camera crane for the international TV broadcast moved into the shot and looking like the camera was taking video shots of you watching the camera.

There were also 3D-gotcha looks: a soccer ball kicked towards the camera and a skier sliding to stop, causing a mini-avalanche of show to move towards the camera.

But even with the gotcha moments, it was pretty amazing to see people walking in the 3rd dimension and having a real life-like feeling.

But the real question will be if people buy new TVs just for the 3D content, especially if people already bought new sets for the digital TV transition that occurred last year.

The TV industry is hoping that 3DTV becomes as big as HDTV when it was introduced several years ago. I don’t think 3DTV will become as big as many hope it will as many people still don’t have HD sets or have the ability to view HD content on those sets.

It took almost a decade for the mass population to adopt HDTV and many still don’t have HDTV.

The amount of money will also be the determining factor in the success of 3DTV. Additional glasses are very expensive and will remain expensive as they are made by the TV manufactures and won’t allow any third-party accessory makers to produce 3D glasses.

And there are still unknowns as to how consumers will get 3D content since many cable operators have not made any dicesons on providing 3DTV channels. And how much will the 3D channels cost.

So unless something happens dramatically, I don’t expect 3DTV be a big winner.