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Chronicle Tech Talk: what's up with 3d tv

By Ryan Sexton, Assistant Entertainment Editor

If you are already sick of HD, television executives and engineers have concocted a new money pit for the masses: 3D television. 2010 is the year for 3D on your TV, and if you haven't seen it yet, you will soon.  The roots of this phenomenon may be connected to the apparent success of 3D in recent films.

Donning 3D glasses is something that has got movie executives shorts in a bunch as a way to preserve an industry plagued by Internet piracy and the subsequent loss in theater attendance. The idea of giving consumers a unique experience, something they couldn't rip or burn at home, was seen as a way to protect film from decline.  It seems that the boys and girls at your favorite companies, like Samsung, Sony and Vizio have decided that this could work for the television medium.

Technologically speaking, 3D will come to the television in a litany of ways. One is combing LCD shutter glasses with a TV broadcast which uses camera tricks to create a stereoscopic image. The only system not requiring glasses, which is pretty exotic, uses a Lenticular system. What remains to be seen is the marketability of these systems.

An unresolved question is the viability of an entertainment product that requires additional gear to operate. Generally, 3D television technology requires glasses to be donned, either passive or active (powered by electricity). One of the few 3D televisions not requiring 3D glasses is made by the Chinese manufacturer TCL: it costs $20,000.  Whether networks and television companies can resolve this perception issue remains to be seen; quite a few focus groups may be needed to determine whether people will put on glasses to watch ordinary television. I would suggest they won't. It doesn't seem like channels are waiting for this debate to be resolved though, with many stations already offering 3D content in 2010.

ESPN is not Avatar, but they are already scheduled to start broadcasting 3D on June 11th.   So is Cablevision, Discovery and DirectTV. If you can handle $8000 gimmicks, an HD TV might be for you. But if not, you can always spend your extra money on the upcoming Avatar sequel.

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