Binks Is Here

Commentary on the World

3D Technology

I haven’t posted anything in quite some time; but about a week ago I posted a response to Granite’s post on the 3D DS in particular, and 3D technology in general. It’s long, and I think reasonably well-considered; so I’m cross-posting it here.

I think it’s worth noting that the 3D technology going into the TVs is not the same 3D technology being used in theaters now.

My understanding:
Theater 3D uses polarized light projected on the screen. Two images, each polarized differently, are up on the screen at the same time. You then wear lenses where each lens is transparent to a specific polarity and blocks the other. Thus, each eye sees a different image.
Advantage: 30 cent glasses. Disadvantage: Ungodly expensive projector.

Most (all?) of the new TV sets do it differently. They display twice as many images as the average TV set does (so, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 48 frames per second). You wear glasses where each lens can be made opaque or transparent. The TV set has a transmitter, and each pair of glasses has a receiver. The transmitter screams “Left Eye!” and the left eye becomes transparent. It screams “Right Eye!” for the next frame, and the right eye becomes transparent. So, the left eye sees 24 frames of “left eye” video every second, and the right eye sees 24 frames of “right eye” per second.
Advantage: TV uses fundamentally the same tech that has always been used.
Disadvantage: Glasses are more than $100/pair, because they are pieces of precision electronics.

What I anticipate will happen (and it may already be happening) is that the viewing of additional frames per second is not really all that strenuous (or at least it won’t be in the future - witness how HDTVs used to be absolutely insanely priced). So, most/all TVs in the future will be 3D capable. If you want 3D, you’ll buy the transmitter and a few pairs of glasses and BAM! your 2D set is now 3D capable.

The same deal as HDTV now - most people who buy HD sets don’t really need them, and they’ll be most valuable to people who drop a few hundred bucks on Blu-Ray players. In a few years when the cost of Blu-Ray players goes down, however, people will have TV sets already in their living rooms that can handle the player.

And, as for future 3D, we’ll only get there on the backs and dollars of the early adopters - you can’t jump straight to mass-production of “ultra 3D” any more than you could’ve said in the pre-VHS era, “I’ll just wait for Blu-Ray”. Same thing with the NES and the Wii - if Nintendo didn’t make money on its expensive system with ugly graphics many years ago, they wouldn’t have come out with the neat system they have today.

So, to sum: Every 3D TV is a great 2D TV already, just like every Blu-Ray ready TV is a great DVD TV. Current 3D tech isn’t wonderful, and I don’t think I’ll be buying into it either, but you can only get to wonderful by having companies make money with the not-wonderful.