Is 3D TV Ready Yet?

Holography was invented back in the 1960’s and since then people have been excited by the idea of watching images in 3D. The effect was brought to the movies thanks to a technique known as anaglyph imaging which overlaid two colored images and produced a stereoscopic or 3D effect when viewed with special colored glasses. It was crude and the glasses were annoying so after a brief burst of popularity it fell out of use. Years later it seems we are finally on the verge of rolling out genuine 3D images via a new range of televisions which require no special glasses.

Cardboard 3D GlassesCardboard 3D GlassesVarious examples of holography have been used in sci-fi films over the years, such as Princess Leia’s message to Obi Wan in Star Wars. But the majority of holographic images were static because producing moving holographic images requires huge amounts of computing power. While sci-fi led us to believe we’d be enjoying full 3D images within a few years, the reality was disappointing. The 3D stereoscopic effect introduced into cinemas, which only worked with the daft cardboard glasses, was nausea inducing. It was also simply a trick which fooled our eyes and the visual information to examine a genuine 3D image of something just wasn’t there.

One of the first applications for genuine 3D imaging is medical. A brain scan for example, which doctors could review as a three dimensional image, would be tremendously useful and may advance surgery. There are various scientific applications and several universities around the world are working on 3D imaging projects but they predict it will be a number of years before this technology is developed. So what is the all the excitement about?

Well some of the big television manufacturers have been working on a new 3D effect and they are on the verge of releasing a new range of 3D TVs. Before you get too excited, I should explain this latest breakthrough is just another trick. The new Philips WOWvx 3D television uses a lenticular lens and sends different signals to each eye in order to fool your brain into seeing a three dimensional image. It may be fake but it is convincing and it requires no glasses. You can check our a demo of the the Philips WOWvx 3D television here:

Hyundai have already released a 3D TV but their set requires glasses to work, albeit slightly more stylish glasses than the old cardboard pairs. Satellite broadcaster Sky is working on how to broadcast 3D images but their technology also requires people to wear glasses. Samsung have released technology based on the old stereoscopy trick too but with glasses required these are all just updates for old technology and unlikely to capture the public imagination.

MIT Museum Hologram photographed by kun0meMIT Museum Hologram photographed by kun0me

More exciting news at Mitsubishi who have also developed a 3D effect and like Philips' efforts, theirs does not require the glasses. In partnership with nVidia they’ve produced 3D vision which can add depth to existing movies or games but the effect is subtle at best. One of the factors which will determine whether the new generation of 3D takes off is whether the entertainment industry produces specially made 3D content to support it. There are a few films and games in production which intend to be 3D. The problem is to get a decent 3D effect will cost more than conventional shooting and there is as yet no industry standard for capturing or outputting 3D footage. With the new technology currently expected to be extremely expensive it may be a while yet before we are ducking behind the couch to avoid flying bullets from the movie on TV.

Simon Hill
Guest Blogger


Our guest blogger, Simon Hill, is a keen writer, surfer and gamer who loves technology in all its many forms.
Feb 10, 2009
by Anonymous

Your article is misleading

your commentary on 3D, along with a picture of a pair of anaglyph glasses is very misleading. The heyday and biggest popularity of 3D came in the early 50s when it was introduced to theatres to combat the rise in popularity of TV. During that time 3D was presented in the dual strip polarized process which required two strips of film along with polarized for the 3D.

If you are referring to 3D on TV that had a brief flurry in the eighties using the anaglyph process which requires the red and green glasses you are correct, but your articles gives the impression all 3D in the past has been based on anaglyph, the worst 3D process ever hoisted on the entertainment industry.