At the CES show in Las Vegas last January, all anybody could talk about were the new 3D televisions that were being exhibited by Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and any other company that had anything to do with LCD technology. Now, Samsung in Australia has issued a warning about the health risks of watching 3D that resembles the list of nasty side-effects you get on commercials for new allergy medications. So you've gotta ask: Is it worth it?
Now, I have to admit that I've been very conflicted about the whole 3D TV thing. On the one hand, I was as blown away by Avatar as anybody; after being turned away from my local theatre twice because of crowds, I finally got into a showing and had the time of my life watching aliens zoom around the screen in 3D. It's cool. Really.
On the other hand, I'm a bit skeptical about the viability of 3D at home. At first, it was simply the glasses -- while they may be workable for sitting in a dark theatre with your eyes glued to the screen, how well could they work in a home, when you're simultaneously watching a film and either keeping an eye on your kids, eating dinner, knitting, or checking your e-mail? From my own experience, I know that the glasses used for 3D TV don't work well for other tasks -- back at CES, I tried to take notes on a netbook while watching a 3D presentation at an Nvidia press conference and had developed a headache within a few minutes.
Now comes a warning from Samsung Australia. First, it suggests that watching 3D television may not be quite as easy as simply slipping on your glasses. You also need to turn off all fluorescent lighting (to avoid a flickering effect) and block direct sunlight.
That's just if you want a decent viewing experience. Then we get into the cautions about epileptic seizures and/or strokes. Warnings to parents to check to make sure their children and teenagers aren't experiencing a number of symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, cramps, lightheadedness or loss of awareness (have you ever known a kid who didn't experience loss of awareness while watching TV?). It suggests that you do not watch 3D TV if you are in bad physical condition, need sleep or have been drinking alcohol (which leaves out 90% of adults). You are also advised that the glasses can hurt your eyesight, and that you should not place your TV near open stairwells or balconies.
I've heard Avatar compared to The Jazz Singer in its influence on motion picture entertainment -- that because of the popularity of the film, 3D television would take over from 2D entertainment in a matter of months, in the same way that sound movies immediately took over from silents. That could be true -- we won't really know for a few years yet.
However, I can absolutely assure you that the next revolution in motion picture technology will not happen if you need to take a medical exam before you can safely put on your 3D glasses.