The Uncertain Future of 3D Technology

It’s hard to believe that the first ever color 3D movie was released nearly 60 years ago. Since then, every decade or so, 3D movies are reintroduced with more impressive, technological effects, but the technology and trend never seemed to catch on. Now it’s common to have several 3D movie offerings in a theater at one time and many older movies are being rereleased in 3D.

With the progression of computer-generated images and digital technologies 3D imaging has become a consumer technology. We now have 3D projectors and 3D TVs being marketed by major manufacturers. There is a lot of buzz and excitement about 3D technologies moving from the theaters into other markets, but the transition has not yet taken off.

  • Cost is one major contributing factor. 3D TVs and projectors are technologically advanced pieces of equipment and are costly. Not only are the TVs and displays more expensive, they also require pricy glasses to see the effects. These glasses can cost more than $100 a pair and require multiple pairs for multiple viewers. Additionally, glasses made for one manufacturer may not work with another brand of TV or projector. This pricing of the display and glasses makes 3D viewing less accessible for in-home consumer use and even less practical for AV customers in the education and business sectors.
  • Even if you decide to make this investment, and purchase a 3D TV and enough glasses for all to use, it doesn’t guarantee you access to view everything in 3D. Because 3D consumption has not taken off, there is a limited amount of 3D content available. Production companies are not making all DVDs and TV shows available in 3D. This technology is great for occasional use, to watch a made for 3D movie or to play a special video game with, but it’s not yet an everyday technology.
  • The ability to have 3D images produced in your home, with action happening right in front of your face is indisputably a major technological achievement, but the quality of these 3D images is not quite up to consumer standards. The experience you have watching a 3D movie in a movie theatre is not paralleled by in- home technologies. The quality of the image can also be distorted by the glasses, simply shifting your head the wrong way can stop the 3D image from showing. Some companies now offer 3D TVs that can display custom content and do not require glasses. This is the future of the technology and an area that companies need to focus on to make 3D an everyday technology in people’s homes and businesses.
  • One place where you do currently see glassless 3D displays is at tradeshows and conferences. This is introducing business and companies to the technology and will hopefully drive and push its advancement. Here companies are investing into a minimal number of displays and typically use smaller screens showcasing custom made content. This process can also be expensive but it is attention grabbing and helps differentiate companies in a tradeshow environment.

3D technology is moving in the right direction, but has not made a big splash in consumer or business markets. If consumer interest sparks the technology’s advancement, 3D may have a better chance of sticking around. When the quality improves, pricing decreases, additional content is made available and glassless technology advances, 3D may become a common tool AV integrators recommend to schools and businesses.

Chris Gamst, vice-president and owner of CCS New England, an AV integrator serving the education, corporate and government sectors in the New England area.