/ Technology

Why 3D TV is destined to fall flat on its face


3D TV is an exciting proposition for home cinema buffs, yet the technology comes with a hell of a lot of baggage. It demands our attention and the emptying of our wallets, but TV shouldn’t be this hard to watch.

It’s not hard to decipher our love affair with the telly. It welcomes our unceremonious slump onto the sofa after a hard day, demands only half of our attention, but always has plenty to give back (if you’re prepared for a bit of channel surfing).

If, on occasion, our telly does show what we want to watch, then we sit up and pay attention, but it’s still a ‘take me or leave me’ proposition. No strings.

Forget all that with 3D TV

3D TV is an event; an event with so many strings you’ll end up tied in knots. It demands not only your total attention but the attention of everyone else in the room, each wearing a pair of ridiculously priced glasses for good measure (£100 a pop anyone?)

It’s like settling down to watch your favourite DVD with the family but having to ensure everyone is appropriately dressed. No quick crossword, no quick web surf on the iPhone and definitely no sneaking off to the loo. The 3D telly is on and it’s in control.

‘Fair enough’, you might say – for a special event like a 3D movie it’s fine to make that extra special effort. It’s worth it in the end right? Well in a word, no. Sure the technology is impressive, and the first time you slip on the specs you’ll experience the ‘wow factor’. But it doesn’t last long.

The glasses are uncomfortable and heavy, background light flickers in the corner of your eye and the 3D effect is quickly muted if you happen to take your eyes off the screen. In short, 3D TV is a chore and like most chores it doesn’t make you feel good.

3D TV doesn’t match the hype

Don’t get me wrong – I was very excited about 3D TV and love new technologies (no really, you’re never more than three steps away from a gadget in the Briggs’ house). And this is nothing to do with the lack of 3D content (it’ll come) or the high price of the TVs (they’ll fall in time).

3D TV just doesn’t match the hype being generated by the industry. It feels like a gimmick born from TV industry executives gathering in the boardroom, plonking Avatar’s receipts on the table and saying, ‘We want some of this’.

Once the dust has settled, tales of clunky glasses and monster 60-inch screens will get around and 3D TV will be quietly consigned to the canon of expensive technology flops. Only LG’s passive display technology (cheap glasses included) could save the day. But then why bother when you can go to the cinema?

Iona says:
1 July 2010

Like any new technology 3DTV is priced really high. I’d wait a year or so until it’s more affordable. You can bet the price will drop massively


One of the only reasons they introduced 3DTVs was because the price of HDTVs was dropping too low. New tech means they can make them extortionate again.

Dutchyboy says:
1 July 2010

I think you’re spot on here Mike, television is about escapism and as such the ability flick your brain to the ‘off’ position is essential. Convenience rules in home entertainment, 3D will rule the roost in Hollywood-driven cinema for years to come but it’s not made for the home unless you watch TV alone.


@Dutchyboy “unless you watch TV alone” – which is perhaps an area of growth. Video games are where 3D is likely to take off. Sony’s pushing it very hard with the PS3 this year – Killzone 2, Gran Turismo 5 (this will be the biggest win for 3D) and other games. It’s easy and cheap to create as (most) games are created in 3D worlds. It’s also mainly a solitary hobby (not always) with many audophiles already jumping onto the PS3 wagon with Blu-ray. I think we could agree that that console had a big part in getting Blu-ray to win the format war, and could do the same for 3D – it’s cheap and doesn’t require a new investment.

Cost is another area that’s likely to change quickly. 3DTVs are insanely priced because it’s the new ‘technology’ but it’s actually not that expensive to make. Budget 3DTVs will come soon – and it’s really down to reducing the price of the glasses. When all people have 3D TV’s in their houses (they’re likely to become standard) and have a PS3 – 3D will just eventually encroach its way into our living rooms.

And we could be better for it – watching tennis and football is very difficult without depth – and when 3D isn’t used in a gimmicky way we might just get used to it as a natural progression of home viewing. Oh and Nintendo’s releasing the no-glasses 3DS – sure to be a huge hit and grow the world’s appetite for 3D at home.


Is watching football on 2D TVs that difficult? Tennis? The World Cup and Wimbledon looked fine to me when I glanced up from the newspaper to watch (which I wouldn't be doing with my 3D glasses on). But you're right about games Patrick – that could well be the killer app for 3D. But let's be strictly pedantic about this – gaming and watching telly are two different ball games 😉


Well, how many times have you cheered a goal, thinking it had gone in when actually it was on the other side of the net? Or thought a ball had just been chipped forward, when in fact it had been crossed to the other side of the pitch? The only way these kind of depth perceptions can be seen on 2D TV is with shadows and often the ball is not close enough to the ground, or the pitch lighting doesn't allow this.

Watching the World Cup on a Black & White TV wasn't that difficult either…

P.S. people who use reading glasses suffer the same problem of having to remove/peer over their glasses when glancing at the telly from their paper.

Tom Ritchie says:
3 July 2010

No way would I spend £2,000 on a 3D TV – or indeed any other sort – but I’m old enough to remember going into the TV department in Harrods way back when and seeing the first flat screen TVs on sale for £££££s. Now you would have to be some kind of Luddite to not have a flat screen and you are paying zero extra for the privilege.

If Sky goes large on 3D and makes it a lot more entertaining to watch Premier League footie this way, I have no doubt that it will rapidly become the norm over the next 2-3 years, with less clunky viewing options coming on stream and prices of 3D TVs falling rapidly.


I think with flat screen TV’s it was more about the physical area previous CRT TVs took up. Buying a flatscreen TV makes quite a big impact on people’s living rooms – they’re saving a lot of space and can install them on their walls. You’ll find more people buying HDTVs than are actually watching high-definition content (a waste in my opinion).

It doesn’t look like 3DTVs have an advantage beyond 3D – maybe if manufacturers can add more advantages to upgrade (like internet TVs) more people would make the jump.

VofEscaflowne says:
14 July 2010

I wonder how long until we see TVs adopting the same tech as the 3DS. I know that right now, the viewing angle sucks on it but the reason it works so well is that it's a portable so those aren't really well suited to having multiple people watching anyway. If it becomes possible to have 3DTVs go glasses free, then this'll make the current o