3D TV: Can You See the Emperor's New Clothes?

You know the story: an unscrupulous robe maker tells the king how wonderful his new, expensive, invisible robe is, king believes it, and king shows his butt to the world. A timeless tale that gets repeated over and over. And maybe a new version has just surfaced.

A recent news story reported on a study showing that a majority of US consumers prefer 3D TV over standard HDTV. And if a survey says 3D TV is wonderful and popular, it must be true. Right? But considering the lack of content and any agreed upon standard, this seems a little suspicious. Sure, anyone can see that 3D TV is different than 2D, but is there any real interest behind the hype? Let's consider just what was discovered in this latest survey.

More than half of the people surveyed wished they had 3D TV in their homes. According to the survey, "99% of those surveyed who have seen 3D TV perceive it to be at least "somewhat better" than standard HDTV or 2D TV. Nearly threequarters (71%) said that 3D TV is "much better" or "dramatically better" than 2D TV." Sounds pretty convincing. But, the survey was given to 500 attendees of Disney's version of ComicCon, D23 - not exactly a true sampling of the American public. These are the same folks who lined up time and time again to see Captain Eo. Moreover, the survey, sponsored by Panasonic, didn't ask how many people are going to actually run out and purchase a 3D TV. Or [Conspiracy Theory Alert!] maybe the survey asked that, and they just don't want us to know what the response was.

Sales of 3D TVs are growing - slowly - as is the amount of content. However, it seems that media providers and manufacturers are caught in a familiar feedback loop of stagnation: the entertainment industry isn't going to invest in producing 3D content when there aren't enough viewers to warrant the extra expense. And manufacturers aren't going to push the 3D TV sets until there's enough content to bring out the consumers with open wallets. And in this economy, who's rushing out to buy the latest fad in electronics? (Unless, of course, it has a picture of an apple on it.)

It's relatively inexpensive to create a 3D display, but the same can't be said for producing content. 3D requires a whole new production chain, or at least more dollars to convert 2D to 3D. Until there is strong demand from consumers, neither manufacturers nor content providers will start scrambling. They can all scream all they want about how great it is, but until people start buying 3D, who really cares?

Okay. Truth or dare. You undoubtedly already have a relatively new, terrific HDTV. Let us know: Are you willing to gamble on 3D TV and buy a brand new TV any time soon? What's keeping you from jumping to the next dimension? It's the dorky glasses, right? If you have a 3D TV, did you intentionally look for that feature? Or, like most of us, are you waiting to see if 3D TV is really going to take off? With an expensive purchase like that, you sure don't want to be caught with your pants down. Or not wearing any pants at all.

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