Cast your minds back to the year 2010, a time where the world looked a lot of different. Wikileaks, Spain winning the World Cup, Obama was still president, and 3D TVs were totted as the next wave in revolutionary technology. Fast forward seven years and the revolution is over with Sony, LG and Samsung confirming the discontinuation of 3D TVs. LG director of new product development Tim Alessi stated, ‘3D capability was never really universally embraced’.
Although it is astonishing to see the quick demise of 3D TVs, it is fair to say that from inception 3D TVs were more of a gimmick rather than a revolution which was always going to be fighting an uphill battle. Simply put 3D TVs was an idea with little adaptation capabilities compared to other tech e.g. mobile phones and laptops. This lack of adaptation is certainly one of the main reason for its quick death.
3D TVs debuted at a time where 3D was making strides in the movie industry with the success of David Cameron’s Avatar. The initial success prompted a rise in interest from electronic companies and by the turn of 2011, the idea of 3D TVs began to gather some reasonable traction with total shipments reaching 2.25 million, the number increased to 4.1 million units shipped come the end of 2012. However, from that point on interest began to wane and numbers declined rapidly throughout 2013. There are indeed countless reasons as to why 3D TVs failed to attract consumers, most notably the inconvenience of having to wear 3D glasses and numerous accounts of motion sickness and nausea, not to mention that the whole idea lent more on a gimmick rather than a serious approach to revolutionise the TV industry.
Ultimately its failure to appease broadcasters due to lack of marketable content left 3D TVs without a foundation to stand on. ESPN, BBC, Sky Sports all pulled their exclusive 3D specific channels stating a ‘lack of appetite’ for 3D content. For now the idea of 3D TVs has been put away maybe never to return, in its absence TVs have move forward to new ideas stemming from curved screens, HDR and high resolution 4K displays. Even the boom in 3D movies has petered off. Although some are not sold on curved TVs you can’t dispute that these new creations deliver immediate benefits to the consumer, establishing a great quality without the inconvenience of extra glasses or nausea.
When it was announced that 3D TVs had been halted indefinitely tech experts were quick to compare its fall from grace to another gimmick, the Google Glass. In 2012 Google invented wearable glasses technology which was capable of taking photographs, looking up maps and surfing the internet. Three years later Google pulled the plug on the Google Glass due to lack of traction from the consumer market. The Google Glass was criticized for being too similar to smartphones without a unique difference, lack of a specific purpose and was embarrassing to wear. The last criticism was certainly apparent when discussing 3D TVs and not surprisingly it has popped up again with the recent popularity surge in Virtual Reality.
In fact, Virtual Reality could learn a lesson from 3D TVs with a lot of speculation as to whether VR is the way of the future or just another gimmick that will disappear over time. Certainly 3D TV and VR share a lot of similarities, like 3D TVs it requires the consumer to purchase expensive peripherals. Not to mention 3D TV required specific 3D content something that VR must be able to do in order to showcase how effective the technology really is.
However, there are some major differences, for one VR relies on a more immersive experience establishing an ‘it’s actually happening to me’ experience while 3D just focused on having things ‘jump out’ at you. Secondly, one cannot forget that VR focuses around gaming and having the user interact with the content rather than sitting still, but this only can become effective if the gaming industry can create content that fully takes advantage of immersion something 3D TV could not.
Conor McGovern | Tech Editor