“To 3D or not to 3D… That Is The Question!”

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“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”… wrote William Shakespeare. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, part of his soliloquy in Hamlet causes many of us in the consumer electronics business to connect these words to consumer pondering with respect to purchasing or not purchasing the ultimate 3D TV experience.

The raving, debating, nearly insane ping pong discussions of “to 3D or not to 3D” in your living room continues with equal vigor, confusing force. And get ready for more strenuous debating in social classes as soon as 3D becomes heavily mixed into your mobile, business and home lives; like it or not. The 3D experience will be your pylon into clouds of entertainment, shopping, searching, videos, business, photography, even email and social networking from as close as 2 inches to a mammoth 100 inches of 3D delight. Proof thy ask? According to NPD DisplaySearch, the 3D display market will accelerate rapidly in the coming years with 3D TV’s projected growth to be from 25 million units in 2011 to approximately 180 million units in 2019, globally. To 3D or not to 3D is no longer the question, the question for you is, just when?

The reflection is: what is currently available, what will become the 3D environment and just what is this 1960’s sounding “auto-stereoscopic technology we keep hearing, err, make that seeing about?” Oh and of course, why should you care? You should care because consumer statistics suggest a lack of content plus a lack of desire to wear 3D glasses plus overall 3D user confusion as the reasons for slow 3D adoption. New auto-stereoscopic technology, abating the need for big bulky and uncomfortable 3D glasses will hyper accelerate consumer acceptance, consumer demand for many years to come. And there is more.

Let’s not restrict the 3D conversational debate to just TV’s. Already many portable gaming devices are including auto-stereoscopic technology into their display glass, into the user experience. This next generation technology in its simplest terms means the 3D effect is built into the glass itself and does not require external, bulky or silly looking 3D glasses to enjoy the powerful illusions of a third dimension. Expect to see, realize and enjoy through heightened emotional capital scary, fun, outrageous adventures whether you are watching, finding, networking or buying through your 3D displays. Expect to “see” auto-stereoscopic 3D in mobile smart phones, in playback and recording devices, notebooks, tablets and of course TV’s. In fact, a company called StreamTV announced in January an incredible new viewing 3D platform known as Ultra-D delivering both a 3D auto-stereoscopic environment (3D without glasses) with real time conversion of current 2D images and video up-streamed to 3D format. Imagine such an environment where all 2D content could be converted real time to 3D. Imagine when fully released how this Ultra-D environment would spark 3D demand, as long as prices are reasonable, are affordable.

Before you get to excited and energized please remember Shakespeare’s quote: “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Well, actually, that is just the problem today. For technology to fully realize the power of 3D without glasses might cost you a small fortune today, but not tomorrow. 3D glasses will be needed and included in devices such as large screen televisions for several years to come due to the high cost and price of auto-stereoscopic technologies. But, thy should stay warm and 3D fuzzy in the near future because 3D tablet PC’s without glasses are forthcoming in the next 12 to 18 months. In addition there are already a variety of other digital devices like still cameras and camcorders which are capable of producing 3D photos and video with many more on the way. Early adopters and those with deep pockets, perhaps outrageous fortunes have already started to experiment with 3D photography. New 3D cameras launched this year were slim, but expect many more 3D cameras to appear in 2013, with prices dropping.

Of course we will most likely “see” expensive B2B applications for the auto-stereoscopic 3D experience without glasses (public digital displays in airports, shopping malls) as well as fast introduction into big iron moving devices like jet planes and high end automobiles. All this 3D thinking, dreaming and watching crashes into an important fact. A lack of 3D content today. With over 500 broadcast television stations only a modicum of stations project in 3D. ESPN 3D was launched in June 2010 with the World Cup soccer tournament becoming a 24-hour 3D format about a year later. ESPN displays some live events in 3D, however, most of the sporting events in 3D are prerecorded. DirecTV launched n3D, the first 24-hour 3D channel creating an occasional 3D program, mostly sports like the US Open tennis tournament. DirecTV also transmits 3net, a 24-hour 3D channel created with Discovery, Imax and Sony, broadcasting 3D in nature and documentary style programs. Other cable and satellite providers offer the occasional event and/or have some 3D available on-demand, but currently DirecTV has the most 3D TV content by far. We surely need more 3D content and or the StreamTV 2D to 3D convertor in order to mature a 3D demanded marketplace. The future of 3D TV will be here shortly, “please stand by.”

To 3D or not to 3D? Soon, over the next 12 to 18 months as we will finally shed 3D glasses, as the 3D experience is promulgated on your mobile, office and home devices, as 3D content provisions are accelerated the answer will be simple, the answer will be included in each and every glowing 3D glass screen through your life. Wait and see or jump in now. if you have an “outrageous fortune” and can afford to buy a current 3D TV now and a new auto-stereoscopic TV later, go for it.

The net? We know new forms of 3D technologies are thundering out of manufacturers factories with hyper changing, short product life cycles. This speed of 3D change will cause a large waste land museum of old 3D technology as will become apparent over the next 12 months. If you don’t have a colossal pocketbook fortune, then perhaps you should “wait and see when 3D will be designed for your glass-less eyes, content rich and priced just right for thee.” Soon, very auto-stereoscopic soon. To 3D or not to 3D that is no longer the question… the question is simply when?

Peter Weedfald – President, Gen One Ventures and Author, Green Reign Leadership

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