3-D comes to the living room


It might surprise you to learn there are about 2 million 3-D-ready TV sets already in U.S. living rooms. Yet hardly anyone watches TV in 3-D.

"It's a chicken-and-egg situation," says Bernie Laramie, an executive at Stereoscope, a 3-D production/post house. "There is very little content and even less publicity pushing for adoption."

That could change soon. Best Buy, Circuit City and other big-box retailers are starting to offer new lines of 3-D-ready TV sets from Samsung and Mitsubishi, and the sets won't sell for a premium. "The chip itself is a small incremental cost, especially with volume," says digital entertainment consultant Marty Shindler. "Prices are already coming down dramatically for HDTV sets."

A major sticking point is the glasses. Today's 3-D TV sets require those oversized eyesores, and watching 3-D TV at home is a very different experience than watching a 3D movie in a theater. "Home viewing is often a multitasking experience," Laramie says. "So, 3-D TV that requires glasses is not going to be widely adopted. I don't see myself wearing polarized glasses while I'm helping my daughter with her homework."

New glasses-free technologies are on the way. An "autostereoscopic" display solution from Philips is being beta-tested at Stereoscope. "Some people say this is the Holy Grail for

3-D," says Greg Agostinelli, the company's head of emerging display technologies.

Dynamic Digital Depth president and CEO Chris Yewdall says his company has licensed its real-time 2-D-to-3-D conversion chip to Samsung, which will incorporate it into its next-generation TVs. And Sensio president and CEO Nicholas Routhier says his company's technology for formatting 3-D content for DVD/Blu-ray and broadcast will be incorporated into an LCD 3-D HDTV set that will reach U.S. shelves in the next few months.

With so much 3-D content headed to theaters next year, the home entertainment market could experience a boom when those films hit DVD and Blu-ray. "With the confluence of TV set manufacturers, the studios and (the existing technology), it won't take much longer to create traction in the market," Yewdall says.