CES: Do you really want a 3D TV?

It's difficult not to get enthusiastic over 3D when it's so much in evidence at this year's CES. Nearly every press preview that I've attended has mentioned 3D in some way. During Wednesday's press event, for example, Samsung showed off its LED9000 3D display which is a mere 0.3-inches thick (there were audible gasps from the audience when they swung the display around to show it from the side). The company also trotted out Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks, to push a new agreement for 3D content.

Not to be outdone, Sony started its presentation of its latest displays with a 3D-ified Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and went on to a live performance by pop star Taylor Swift singing against a 3D image of herself.

The question is, of course, when all the fireworks have burned themselves out and the shouting has died down, how many people will actually want 3D?

The vendors, of course, are convinced that it is the Next Big Thing, and are doing their level best this week to convince everybody else of that. And one can hardly blame them; the success of Avatar and other 3D films are at least an indication that people like 3D, and will flock to the theaters to see it. In addition, it is nice to have a new technology to be excited about -- after the discouraging economic atmosphere of the last year, it would be really nice to find something that people are willing to buy.

On the other hand, is 3D something that people will want in their homes? Are you willing to buy a new 3D-capable display (at what will probably be a fairly hefty price) that won't work unless you wear a pair of glasses? (And will have to be replaced when you accidentally sit on it, or your dog mistakes it for a chew toy.)

I'm not so sure. Yes, I admit that 3D is very cool, and I bow to no one in my admiration of the latest 3D movie features. But people don't watch TV at home the same way they watch movies in a theatre. They eat; they do homework; they surf; they knit -- they do a number of things that involve frequently glancing away from the screen -- and those glasses aren't good for looking at anything but the screen.

Of course, HD was also once a bleeding edge tech, and now it's fast becoming the norm for home entertainment. But I maintain that until 3D is possible on a casual basis -- without the extra facial adornment -- it will continue to be a cool extra tech rather than the usual entertainment choice.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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