Thursday, July 7, 2011

10 Reasons Why People Won't Watch 3D TV ...


Washington, D.C. (July 6, 2011) -- Editor's Note: To celebrate the 10th anniversary of, I am publishing a series of features honoring what I think represents the '10 Best' in the field of TV technologies.

(And in some cases, '10 Worst' articles will expose companies and people who I think are failing to strive toward excellence, or, in some cases, not even making a serious effort to satisfy their customers.)

Today, I present the '10 Reasons Why People Won't Watch 3D TV'

Despite persistent promotion from TV makers and the Hollywood studios, sales of 3D TVs have been remarkably low over the last 18 months. Last year, the Consumer Electronics Association says only about 1.1 million 3D TV sets were sold. And this month, the research firm SNL Kagan estimated that even fewer will be sold in 2011, although the company is more optimistic about future years.

Why aren't Americans buying the new sets?

1. 3D TV Interrupts Your Viewing Experience -- You can't watch 3D TV for more than a minute without finding your eye focusing on individual elements of the screen rather than the picture as a whole. For example, if you're watching a 3D presentation of a college football game, you find yourself watching the player whose display best showcases the 3D effect. It's natural; you know you're watching 3D so your mind and eye tend to focus exclusively on the strongest 3D elements of the picture.

That makes for an interesting minute or two, but it's not why people watch television. They want to take in the entire picture; to be absorbed by it; to let it take over their entire thinking process so they can relax and lose themselves in what they are watching. 3D doesn't allow for that; it constantly interrupts you to check out some 3D effect. After awhile, you almost forget what's happening on the field or in a movie. If you're a Chicago Cubs fan, that could be a plus. But for most viewers, it's a strong negative.

2. It Makes You Sick -- Doctors have estimated that up to 20 percent of the population will get headaches, dizziness or even nausea while watching 3D. Steven Nusinowitz, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles, tells CNN that 3D glasses have a polarized filter that separate two images, thereby enabling the 3D effect. However, the doctor adds that the separation occurs so quickly that your brain may have difficulty accepting it.

"The movie is telling you 'Hey, I'm moving around in this scene,' but your vestibular system is telling you, 'I'm not moving anywhere,' and that disconnect will make you feel sick, for some people," Nusinowitz said.

TV makers even warn consumers in their 3D TV manuals that they could get sick while watching 3D; they advise that you should take off the glasses every 15 minutes or so.

How many consumer products have ever been successful with the masses if their makers had to tell you they might make you sick?

3. Millions of People Just Bought New TVs -- Because of the federally mandated Digital TV transition in 2009, millions of Americans bought a new TV to ensure they could continue watching when their local stations switched from analog to digital. Even in good times, people tend not to buy a new TV every few years or so; they buy one with the intention of keeping it for years.

And we're now in an economic morass; will people sacrifice the rent money for a 3D TV? When they probably have a TV in their living rooms that's not even three years old?

4. There's Not Much 3D to Watch On My Cable or Satellite -- DIRECTV is arguably the leader in providing 3D programming -- and the satcaster offers all of four 3D channels! Are you going to buy a new 3D TV for four channels?

There's talk that CBS might launch a new 3D channel, but for now, it's just talk. Generally, the networks have shown little enthusiasm for investing in a technology that doesn't seem to be exciting the masses.

5. There's Not Much 3D to Watch On Blu-ray -- The studios have rolled out some titles in 3D Blu-ray, most notably Avatar. But the percentage of 3D movies compared to 2D movies is miniscule. And the majority of 3D movies on Blu-ray are animated films targeted to kids; that's nice for the kids, but what about Mommy and Daddy who pay for the sets?

3D apologists say more 3D movies will be coming soon to home video. But there's actually evidence that fewer may be coming in the next year or so. Other than Avatar and Transformers 3, the 2D versions of 3D films are generating more revenue than the 3D editions. If that continues in the second half of 2011, it's not hard to envision the studios pulling the reins on future 3D productions. Seriously, if they don't bring in extra revenue, why spend the extra dollars to make them?

6. People Hate the 3D Glasses -- Just about every objective consumer study has found that people hate wearing those 3D goggles while watching 3D TV. It's an uncomfortable experience, particularly if you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses with different prescriptions for each eye. The 3D apologists say that 3D sans the glasses is in the works, but most analysts say it will take years before the technology is ready.

7. The Glasses Are Too Expensive For a Family -- Some TV makers bundled one free pair of 3D glasses with each 3D TV purchase. But what about a family of four? Or, a family of six? Or, a family of eight. Large families do exist, you know. (Just watch any Discovery channel documentary if you don't believe me.) With the glasses costing up to $150 a pop, how can even a mid-sized family afford one for everyone? Answer: They can't. And if an entire family can't watch something at the same time, chances aren't good that they will watch it at all.

8. 3D TV Is Not HDTV -- The 3D apologists like to say that High-Definition TV had a slow ramp-up to success. Well, that's true. But people didn't buy HDTVs in the early days because the sets were cost-prohibitive, with some medium-sized ones costing up to $10,000.

In contrast, the cost of a 3D TVs is just slightly more than a comparably-sized 2D HDTV. People aren't buying them because they cost too much; they aren't buying them because they don't want them.

In addition, when someone saw a HDTV in person, he wanted it, at least eventually when the price came down. The picture added to your viewing enjoyment because it made you feel like you're were there; the picture was that realistic. But 3D is the antithesis of realism; it's a tech trick designed to jolt a response from the viewer. But the response doesn't last long and it's ultimately unsatisfying. Unlike HDTV, watching 3D TV is not relaxing; it's jarring.

9. 3D TV Is Not Easy to Use -- The 3D goggles are uncomfortable to wear -- and, again, if your entire family wants to watch the show, you have to get goggles for everybody.

Also, many people have trouble actually seeing the 3D effect because of various vision issues; some people have different prescriptions for each eye, etc.

And finally, you have to sit in a certain spot in the room to get the best experience from watching 3D. Sure, every TV has an optimal place to watch from, but 3D requires an even more rigid position.

Hassles, hassles, hassles. Who wants to pay more for a TV that gives you more hassles.

10. 3D TV Has Lost the Culture War -- When I first voiced my doubts about 3D TV more than three years ago, I was nearly alone. Most tech writers said it could revolutionize the industry and mainstream journalists were equally as excited. But since then, things have changed. Even tech journalists who normally gush over a new gizmo have openly mocked the failures of 3D TV. Well-respected movie critics and pundits such as Roger Ebert have predicted it will go the way of the pet rock and CueCat.

In short, 3D TV is not cool; it won't give you status symbol points in the neighborhood. If anything, buying it might get you laughed at.

Few tech products become successful if they don't first win the culture war; to win over the masses, you have to create an aura that buying the gizmo will make you cool.

But 3D TV is definitely not cool in the culture.

Since the ballyhooed introduction of 3D TV in late 2009, CE officials have tried to downplay expectations by saying it will just be a "feature" in a 2D set and not the main reason why people will buy one. With that in mind, research firms have projected that millions of '3D TVs' will find their way into people's homes over the next several years.

That may be true, but even if people have a TV that can display 3D, that doesn't mean they will watch anything in 3D. In fact, for all the reasons listed above, chances are they won't.

The 3D 'feature' may be used as often as such TV features as the Closed Caption button or the Mute button.

That is, if the studios and networks actually continue producing programs in 3D.