3D TV Is Dead

At CES 2012, you couldn’t avoid 3D TVs, ugly polarizing goggles, and—because the viewer at home can not take part in the awesomeness that is 3D—those awful, so-realit’s-bursting-from-the-screen posters. At IFA 2012, the big midyear consumer electronics event in Berlin, it was clear that 3D TV was on its way out. Today, in the wake of CES 2013, 3D TV is dead.

Sure, there was still some 3D tech on display at CES if you looked for it, but the emphasis has now shifted to high-resolution 4K displays, OLED, image quality, and “smart” functionality. In short, Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, and Panasonic have now decided to focus on actually improving their television technology. After three years of those companies pushing and peddling 3D TVs that are virtually devoid of any actual technological innovation, this is rather refreshing.

To the objective, cynical observer, 3D TV has always come across as a fad fabricated by TV makers and Hollywood to sell more TVs and Blu-ray discs. With box office receipts and DVD sales flagging, and LCD-based HDTVs reaching the saturation point, TV makers and Hollywood (understandably) decided that something had to change. And 3D was the perfect choice: It’s incredibly low-tech, but also a very strong differentiator. It took almost no effort on behalf of TV makers and production companies to make the jump to 3D, and yet consumers were forced to buy expensive, new TVs to enjoy the content—or, if you couldn’t afford a 3D TV, you finally had a reason to go to the movie theater.

Then there was the problem of actually convincing consumers that they wanted 3D content, that 3D content was inherently better than 2D, and that it was worth spending $1,500 on a new TV set. What followed was a massive marketing push, a lot of sexy 3D TVs, a slew of 3D movies (including re-releases of blockbusters such as Titanic), and the emergence of 3D TV channels. Despite all that, the growth of 3D TV has been slow. Most estimates peg it at just 20 to 30 percent market penetration as of the end of 2012—and there’s no telling whether those TVs are being used for 3D, or if they were purchased due to feature creep and/or consumer ignorance.

With Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG barely mentioning 3D TVs at CES, it would seem that the fad is finally over. This isn’t to say that 3D TV won’t stagger onward for a little longer—but it’s certainly lost its place as the next big thing. Whereas its predecessor, HDTV, took the world by storm, 3D simply failed to gain traction. It will now be replaced by 4K, 8K, OLED, and other technologies that actually push the envelope of content creation and consumption.


Hollywood, being the ancient, bureaucratic, litigious behemoth it is, moves a lot slower than the technology industry.

It will be interesting to see how Hollywood reacts to this shift. Hollywood, being the ancient, bureaucratic, litigious behemoth that it is, moves a lot slower than the technology industry; now that it’s on the 3D bandwagon, it won’t quickly jump off again. This could be an issue because, though theater intake still accounts for a large proportion of the movie industry’s revenue, it makes little sense to create 3D movies if there’s no TV at home capable of playing them.

One thing that might save 3D TV is that the tech will eventually become a commodity—3D will be just another bullet point on the box. In that case, it won’t really matter what format a TV show, movie, or game comes in, as long as you don’t mind wearing 3D glasses. Or, perhaps, the future of 3D TV lies in glasses-free 3D: Philips recently showed off a 60-inch 4K TV that can apparently display 3D visuals to up to ten people, without glasses.

In other domains, too, 3D is still finding its feet. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of 3D smartphones or monitors, and technologies such as Nvidia’s 3D Vision. It will also be interesting to see how the upcoming class of game consoles pan out, as their specifications were probably hammered out in 2012, during 3D’s (fabricated) heyday. With the current emphasis on controller-free, movement-based input, the addition of a third dimension makes a little more sense. It is possible that 3D TV could be saved by next-generation consoles and glasses-free 3D, almost as a collateral afterthought, but it’s unlikely.

In the short term, however, 3D TV has lost its steam—assuming it had any in the first place.

In the short term, however, 3D TV has lost its steam—assuming it had any in the first place. Given the inherent inadequacies of glasses-on 3D—poor viewing angles, awful color and contrast, nausea and headaches—I don’t think this should really come as a surprise to anyone. It was only a matter of time until we woke up and realized that 3D TV was never more than faux innovation, foisted upon the ignorant masses in a cheap attempt to boost revenues.

Source : PCMAG

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