3D or not 3D – that is the question!

Let me start out this article with full disclosure – I had an eye injury that has affected my stereoptic vision, which means that I don’t see 3D correctly.  In fact, it just gives me a headache and makes me feel ill.

So, setting my personal bias aside, I still don’t like 3D.  There, I said it.

I don’t find (eye problem aside) 3D to be an immersive experience, but I honestly can’t say if it’s because of the glasses or not.  I have seen prototypes of 3D screens that don’t require the glasses, but the strict requirements (standing in one spot – narrow viewing angle) make it as annoying as wearing glasses.  3D that doesn’t require glasses is making rapid advancements, so the day may come when it’s really good (for the 90% that can see it), but IMHO, it’s not working.

I recognize that content is king, and it could be that as agencies develop content for 3D (especially as a component of digital signage) things may dramatically improve.  I think that down the road 3D may have a place in supporting other marketing efforts.  I commend Disney’s use of 3D – they make the 3D imagery be just a part of the overall story.  For example, the Muppets experience uses 3D, but also people in costume, robots effects (water, smoke) to really pull you in – whereas movies do not.

The technology to make most of this happen is already up and running in developer’s labs.  It relies, like any 3D illusion, on sending a slightly different view of a scene to each eye.  Movie theaters and TV sets do this through glasses whose lenses let different images through to each eye.  Nintendo is rumored to be building a glasses-free 3D machine using parallax barrier technology.  Toshiba has recently announced that they have a glasses-free 3D  TV using tapered displays.  An international consortium is working on Helium3D, which is a high efficiency laser-based multi-user multi-modal 3D which uses lasers and an LCD mask to separate the left and right images, but that’s down the road.  Microsoft supposedly has one in development as well which bounces light through a “wedge” display.

Until then, people simply simply don’t seem to be accepting 3D glasses as a way to immerse themselves in a marketing-centic experience.  At the Consumer Electronic Show in Berlin, Sony made 3D a major component of their floor presence.  They projected 3D images of speakers onto a huge screen above the podium, using a “passive polarization” system which only needs inexpensive viewing glasses.  Unfortunately, the complex processing needed to project the 3D video caused the pictures to lag behind the sound.  Then, classical pianist Lang Lang was brought on to perform on a Steinway grand.  In the full glory of 3D, Lang Lang was shown apparently drawing notes from the keyboard before hitting the keys.  As the event progressed, members of the audience increasingly took off their special glasses and simply watched the stage, ignoring the high-tech screens.

Did the agency setting up the show miss the mark?  It was a cool presentation, but it was too heavily integrated and simply didn’t work – as a viewer, I didn’t choose to immerse myself in the experience, yet was still rewarded for my irrational behavior.

Panasonic did something similar – they handed out active-shutter glasses and beamed their speakers onto screens around the floor.  However, their glasses were super expensive and bouncers went around (sometimes physically) that they got the glasses back.  So even though their experience was better (from a 3D perspective), the overall experience was diminished because Panasonic REALLY wanted those glasses back.

So, maybe the point of my entry is not that I don’t like 3D – just that I don’t like 3D yet.