3-D TVs are the next big thing. Well…maybe. The specifics of the emerging technology are still under wraps, but early adopters should be able to outfit their home theaters in a matter of months. We answer all your pressing questions about the future of 3-D TV.
When can I buy one?
Soon. Models from all the major manufacturers should start hitting shelves this summer.
Will I have to wear special glasses?
Yes. The best 3-D tech today relies on ”active shutter” glasses, which flicker over each eye so only one is inputting visual information at a time. (You can’t see the flickering — it’s too fast for your brain to process.) The upside is that they create high-quality images, and the at-home tech required to make them work is cheaper; the downside is that the glasses themselves are more expensive (probably in the $50 range), they’re cumbersome, and they work best when you’re directly facing the TV. Other models use more simple, polarized glasses like the kind you get at the movies, which are more affordable (you can buy a pair online for $2) and already pervasive, but the at-home image isn’t as good, and the hardware that makes them work ups the cost of their respective TVs.
How much will it cost?
Good question. Reps for Sony and Panasonic haven’t revealed price tags, but they say consumers will pay a ”slight premium” over high-end HD televisions. (Of course, how ”slight” is anyone’s guess.) One hidden cost could be the glasses, though: Not every 3-D TV comes with more than one pair, let alone four or five, so you may have to add $50 a pop for every extra pair.
What will I be able to watch in 3-D?
DIRECTV is set to roll out three?count ’em, three! — 3-D channels this June. ESPN will start broadcasting sports events in 3-D with a 2010 FIFA World Cup match between South Africa and Mexico on June 11, and the station says it will broadcast at least 85 games live in 3-D over the next year, including the BCS National Championship. Discovery will debut its own 3-D programming in 2011, and a new subscription-based, all-3-D cable channel, Spectacle3D, is tentatively scheduled to begin broadcasting in 2011. The bigger picture, so to speak, could be Blu-ray. 3-D Blu-ray players should hit the market in the spring, and titles like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, A Christmas Carol, and Monsters vs. Aliens should all be on 3-D discs this year. (Previous 3-D discs like Coraline used basic plastic colored glasses, not the higher-end home options about to be released.)
Should I get one?
Not yet. While 3-D TVs sport a serious coolness factor, there are still an awful lot of kinks to be worked out, and widespread adoption of the technology is hardly a foregone conclusion. If 3-D TVs are going to be as popular as their manufacturers claim, the technology will have to get a lot better — or at least as cheap as its 2-D predecessors — and fast.