3-D TV: cool or another way to fleece us?

I had the opportunity to view 3D television in the Panasonic demo truck at Government Video Expo today. It was a very interesting experience. Panasonic certainly has developed a technology that pushes the limit of video technology (link). Their advancement is not as much in the concept of stereoscopic viewing as it is in improving the quality and cramming all that information in an existing delivery vehicle.

It took the better part of 20 years for HDTV to be finally delivered to our homes. In my humble opinion, the HDTV / wide screen / digital TV age was ushered in by the timely decision by the FCC to change the over the air transmission standard to digital. Consumers were put in a position of needing (wanting) to get the digital technology and, just coincidentally, it was only available in the latest wide screen televisions. All it took was the encouragement of the FCC to justify it in the buyer’s mind. But, in my casual observance, how many people have purchased HD 1080P television sets and then watch standard television stretched wide to fill the screen? Many consumers have paid good money to get poorer pictures – go figure.

But I digress…Back to 3D television. The Panasonic solution relies upon the viewer wearing a pair of Drew Carey looking glasses that have an LCD panel in each lens. The left and right lenses are alternately switched on and off, in sync with the TV monitor which alternately displays left-eye and right-eye images. Our wonderful brains recombine this sensory loading to reconstruct HDTV 3D images in our brain. Their real trick is to try to do this in about the same transmission format as we currently use for HDTV. It is an impressive display, a cool visual trick.

Panasonic, and other manufacturers, are developing impressive ways to display 3D television in our homes. Some tekkie pundits think that we will begin to see 3D television in our homes beginning in 2010. Yeah, that will be cool and, yeah, we each will get 10 bonus prestige points for being the first on our block to get it. But, in this economy, what will be the driving force this time around? Don’t trust the FCC to do it – they spent their political capital on a bungled digital TV deployment. Don’t wait for the entertainment industry – they are still working on the cost/benefit model for HDTV. Local TV stations cannot make it happen – as many are struggling to stay afloat. So, it will be up to we geeks to make it happen.

Go forth, and see stereoscopically.

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