There is no use denying it. The 3D craze is sweeping the nation. This year’s major electronics conventions (CES, Computex, and E3) have all featured advancements in consumer 3D technology, and more breakthroughs are expected in the coming months and years.
Right now, the least expensive way to watch 3D movies is still the movie theater. Currently, 3D-ready HDTVs are insanely expensive, but that will eventually change. In the meantime, the technology will continue to evolve, with some manufacturers already working on methods to deliver 3D to your living room without requiring you to wear glasses.
This is a brief guide to all things 3D, but it should help you get a glimpse of what is available and what is on the horizon.
A 3D-Ready HDTV is a television that can play traditional 2D video and also play 3D video, when available. It utilizes stereoscopic technology, which currently requires LCD shutter glasses. Currently the manufacturers making 3D-ready HDTVs are: Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Phillips, Sony, and Toshiba. A 46-Inch 3D ready TV like the Samsung UN46C8000 costs just under $3,000, considerably more than a 2D-only TV of the same size.
For a comprehensive list of available 3D-ready HDTVs, see this list.
3D Blu-ray Players
Unlike TVs, which require new hardware in order to properly display 3D video, Blu-ray players usually only need firmware upgrades. As such, you may already have a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player. Just check with your player’s manufacturer. Sony’s firmware update, for example, will be released in July of 2010.
Even with the right TV and the necessary Blu-ray player, you cannot view 3D movies unless the movie you want is available in a 3D edition. At this time, only a limited number of movies are filmed with 3D effects, and those are limited to certain scenes. There are two reasons for this: (1) Not all movies or movie scenes lend themselves well to 3D, and (2) production companies still have to support 2D technology in addition to 3D.
Furthermore, many of the movies that were available in 3D in the theaters are not yet available on Blu-ray. This will take time and wider adoption of the technology to support it.
Are computers the perfect platform to show off 3D in all its glory? Nvidia thinks so, and they have plans to develop graphics chips specifically for 3D-ready computers. There are already some laptops currently available with 3D LCD screens, such as the Acer 5740DG, Asus G51J-3D, and Acer 5738DG. What is not clear is what owners of those computers are actually viewing in 3D at this time. Because computer technology develops so quickly, it may be advisable to wait until 3D is more widespread to get a 3D-ready computer. This may change, however, if game developers start making 3D PC games.
There are some cameras on the market with 3D support. Most of them are from Canon, such as the Canon SX1IS and the TX1. Others include the Fujifilm Finepix W1 and the Aiptek 3D-HD i2. A camera with 3D capabilities requires two lenses pointed at the same object to achieve the 3D effect.
At E3 both Nintendo and Sony announced plans to incorporate 3D technology in their game systems. The Sony PlayStation 3 will have 3D support added to its next system software update. Game developers are already producing new games for the PS3 that will support 3D.
Nintendo announced their new handheld device, the 3DS, which will play 3D games and take 3D photos. Likewise, game developers have already begun making games for the 3DS. What separates it from other devices is that it reportedly displays 3D images without the need for glasses.
The Big 3D Picture
The concept of 3D images and video is not a new one, but the technology has continued to develop and improve. As long as there have been 3D glasses, there have been some movie-goers who loved them, but it has yet to become the preferred choice for movies. 3D gaming may very well drive the 3D market, since adoption will be much quicker with systems like the Nintendo 3DS.
Nevertheless, the future of 3D is still uncertain. If you have the money and love 3D, you can take your chances and become an early adopter. If you are on a budget and/or prefer to wait for technology to develop, 3D has a long way to go.