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Do We Really Need 3D TV Sets?

by Sean P. Aune | January 6, 2010January 6, 2010 9:09 am PDT

With the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) set to begin this week in Las Vegas, it seems the dawn of 3D television sets is upon us, but the question remains if we even really need this technology in our homes.

Movies in 3D are certainly the hot trend right now with Avatar raking it in at the box office, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland set for release in a few months, the inevitable inclusion of the technology into our home theater setups is bound to happen. The Blu-ray Disc Association has finalized the specifications for the format to start including the effect, as well as HDMI 1.4 will be able to handle it, and Vizio has already announced its first 3D sets for release in Aug. of this year.

In short, ready or not, your TV is about to start pounding your eyeballs in three dimensions.

The question is if we really need this.  Is there something missing from our home entertainment options that require us to really take our movie and television viewing to this next level?  Do we really need to see an episode of Heroes where someone shoots flame out of the television at us?

Before you answer with a huge “YES!  I want to see flames coming at me!”, you need to ask yourself a few questions as a consumer:
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Will there be enough content to make this worthwhile?

Filming in 3D is not cheap, so it isn’t like there will be a tremendous amount of content at first.  ESPN has announced it will be launching a 3D channel in June of this year with a game from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  The problem is that there will only be 85 events over the following twelve months, which is all the time the network has committed to this pilot project.  During the times there is no game or event being shown live, the channel will be dark as it will have no stable of reruns to go through.

Discovery Networks, Sony and IMAX have also announced that the three companies have partnered up to launch a dedicated 3D network.  While this network will have far more content at its disposal from genres such as natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures and children’s programming, it seems it may feel a little scattershot because no one genre will have that much content.

Are you ready to upgrade … again?

Sure it’s nice that the Blu-ray Disc Association has finalized the standard, but are you ready to buy another Blu-ray player to use it?  Sony Playstation 3 owners are in luck as the device can handle the new spec, but most Blu-ray owners are going to be out of luck.  This will also mean buying a new TV, new HDMI cables, possibly a new TV receiver and who knows what else.

Didn’t we just go through all of this?  Didn’t we all just buy HDTVs over the past few years?  Blu-ray wasn’t introduced that long ago, so if you already have a player, you haven’t had it that awfully long.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it certainly isn’t in my budget to keep updating every few years just because the entertainment industry decides to throw a new trick at us.

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Are you ready to wear 3D glasses all the time?

Maybe wearing 3D glasses to see Avatar wasn’t so bad, but a lot of people have complained of headaches and motion sickness.  There have even been blog posts about how to avoid getting what is known as “the Avatar headache”, this should tell you something about how it will feel having to wear the glasses all the time just to watch TV.

Sure the technology is far better today than it was even back in the 1990’s, and we no longer need those silly looking red & blue glasses, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still going to strain our hours if we watch several hours of this a day as opposed to just popping into a movie theater for a few hours.

What will you do?

Personally I’m going to avoid this gimmick like the plague.  My eyesight is already bad enough, thank you.  The idea of having to pop on special glasses just to watch the latest episode of a beloved television series does not appeal to me in the least.  Perhaps your mileage will vary, but this certainly feels like one of those situations to me where just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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