Imagine a world where the digital entertainment we consume is almost in the room with us; drawing us into its own virtual reality and offering a fully immersive experience.
This is what the major players in the TV, film and video gaming industry were trying to get us to envisage when 3D technology experienced its latest boom, and yet the jury is still very much out on whether this innovation genuinely is the future of our visual media.
As uptake of 3D technology and content continues to be muted, are we ever going to see the day where three dimensions becomes an accepted norm just as sound, colour and high definition before it?
The Current Landscape
So why hasn’t this technology that sounds at least exciting in principle taken off in the way that manufacturers and content providers might have hoped?
The high cost of new concepts often restrict the level of early adoption for any new tech, however prices have come down considerably from early levels and you can now pick up many models of 3D-ready TVs for under £500, which suggests there are other issues behind our reluctance to embrace this innovation.
For many, the necessity of the glasses is a major turn-off, and a Which? study conducted in July last year found that this was indeed the main barrier to people choosing 3D. When you consider both options in detail this is somewhat unsurprising, as neither passive or active 3D is without problems for the viewer.
Passive 3D offerings require glasses that are much like the ones you would find when going to watch a 3D film at the cinema. Lightweight and inexpensive, they don’t provide a huge distraction for the viewer, however the lower resolution they offer, coupled with the fact you lose some image detail, means that they are not the best choice for those who are looking for the highest quality from their image.
Active 3D glasses on the other hand can provide a higher resolution image, yet these are still not a perfect solution. At around £30-a-pop and not always included with the TV they are prohibitively expensive for some households, whole the heavy and clunky design make for an awkward and uncomfortable viewing experience.
It also is worth noting that although many more television models are now coming with 3D capabilities built-in as standard, there is still not the range of content available to make the investment worth it. One channel on Sky TV, some on-demand 3D films via Virgin Media and BT Vision and occasional 3D output on the BBC HD channel does not really provide a compelling incentive to consumers.
A 3-Dimensional Future?
So what does the future hold for 3D technology? It is interesting to note that at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) there was very little in the way of 3D technology on show, with the major brands instead showcasing their latest developments in 4k, Ultra HD displays.
However, the reason for this lack of presence might simply be because it isn’t new anymore, and is instead being included as standard and most modern TVs.
CES did have a few examples of one particular 3D technology that could overcome one of the major issues with current equipment though – glasses-free 3D.
Although still way beyond the financial reach of the majority of consumers, the technology is improving all of the time, and even now there are products that can be viewed from multiple angles such as the 55-inch, 4k prototype on show from Vizio.
If there was anything to take away from CES in regards to the future of 3D television it is that we will be getting it whether we like it or not, rather than it is a fad that is on the way out. As more households purchase 3D-ready sets the demand for 3D content will inevitably increase, leading to more content produced and therefore increased adoption of the relevant media packages from the major providers.
Regardless of whether you love, hate or keep an open mind about this particular innovation, it is likely that the future, one way or another, is in three dimensions.