By Yardena Arar | Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 11:58 am
When Las Vegas cab drivers start asking you about the 3D TVs at CES, you know 3D is a big deal. The question is, how soon will it become a real deal for most of us?
There’s no question that 3D content is coming. Last month, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced the specs for 3D content on Blu-ray; ESPN plans to broadcast 85 events this year over a new 3D channel; Panasonic and DirecTV announced 3D delivery plans, as did Sony in conjunction with the Discovery Channel and IMAX. Everyone is buoyed by the phenomenal success of Jim Cameron’s 3D blockbuster, Avatar, which is introducing many to the artistic possibilities of today’s sophisticated technology. “This is not your father’s 3D” was a mantra for attendees at a CES panel called 3D: Hope or Hype?
There’s also no question that consumer electronics vendors are eager to step up to the plate. Why wouldn’t they be? If 3D takes off in a big way, lots of people who paid $1000 or more for a flat-screen set in the last three years (like me) will be facing its obsolescence a lot sooner than anticipated—and maybe surrendering to the urge to upgrade.
At CES this week, just about every major TV vendor had 3D sets on display. Panasonic led the charge with the announcement that it plans to ship five 1080p 3D plasma sets by June (we got model names and screensizes—50 to 65 inches—but no prices). Sony and Samsung both announced multiple 1080p 3D sets. Vizio, which showed its 2010 line to reporters behind closed doors at the Wynn, had the largest 3D set I’ve seen to date – a 72-inch LCD that it expects to deliver for under $4000. (“We have to make money, you know,” joked co-founder Ken Lowe, who gave reporters the grand tour.)
What’s troubling about the rush to 3D is how disorganized it seems. As far as I can tell, every vendor is implementing 3D in its own way. It’s not clear, for example, whether Panasonic’s active-shutter eyewear will work equally well on a Samsung or Sony set. Nor is it clear that a 3D Blu-ray Disc will look the same on an LG and on a Vizio. And games apparently have their own ways of producing 3D content. Even the panel attendees acknowledged that 3D standards remain a work in progress.
This may be the year of 3D at CES, but I wouldn’t bet big on 3D for the rest of us—at least, not quite yet.