3D TV Technology Can you see the third dimension?

It may be a surprise to many but the way present 3D Television technology renders an impression of depth is not something that works for everyone. Therefore, do not just buy a 3D HDTV; do not assume you can see the third dimension! The number of Americans that are literally 3D Television build amounts to a few millions.

Unfortunately, the TV manufacturing industry seems reluctant to target this market. Why? Is there a way out for these individuals to enjoy 3D in the home?

3D Television has come to the home…but not for everyone!

3D Television has definitely become a reality for the millions who have already invested in a 3D HDTV. It is estimated that by end 2011, sales of 3D HDTVs had already reached 21 million units. And this figure is expected to continue rising as the 3D feature is now being embedded into a larger number of TVs at both mid-range and premium categories.

But rest assured that not everyone will be willing to invest in the present 3D Television technology.

And this is not a matter of an expensive price tag. After all, prices of 3D HDTVs have already fallen drastically since their debut in 2010. Nor it is the result of those annoying 3D glasses necessary with the present 3D Television technology to render the virtual 3D image.

Rather, it has all to do with the way 3D HDTV technology works to create the 3D illusion. The 3D process leads to an undesirable disparity between eyeball accommodation or focusing, and convergence; this disparity in 3D is referred to as fundamental disparity.

Why not everyone can see 3D TV?

We have stated in our 3D Television Technology guide that the way this 3D imaging technology renders an impression of depth is not exactly the same as the way our human vision system works. This difference is such that it leads the brain to detect an abnormality.

The two most important cues for the human brain to determine relative image depth information are stereopsis, or image parallax as resulting from the convergence of the eyes due to the interpupillary distance, and eyeball accommodation, or focusing. Present 3D content technology as applicable to 3D Television and the movie industry addresses the issue of stereopsis only.

Eyeball accommodation does not feature anywhere into the 3D filmmaking process and 3D TV technology with the result that the eyes of the viewer remain focused at a fixed distance on the screen surface.

This disparity is a totally abnormal situation for the brain. For the majority of viewers, this is not much of a major problem as for most people, convergence is sufficient for the brain to generate relative depth information about an object in space.

Yet for some 4% of the American population, the conflicting depth information resulting from the disparity between convergence and focusing cues as presented in 3D TV imaging is such that their brain would not work out the object depth. Some researchers suggest that this figure can be as high as 10%.

These person still have a good perception of depth in real life, but their depth perception relies on more than just a matter of convergence. For these persons, the parallax between the left and right eye images alone as used in 3D viewing does not convey sufficient depth cues; eyeball accommodation (or focusing) needs to be catered for as well. These persons are literally 3D TV blind.

Is there a solution in the pipeline?

The irony is that TV manufacturers and the movie theater entertainment industry are not doing anything at all to help 3D TV blind persons experience the sensation of 3D viewing. And considering, even if we were to assume that only 4% of the population is 3D TV blind, these persons would still amount to a market of several millions.

So why the industry does not care?

Some may find this strange but if you were to think about it, it does not take much investment for TV makers to come up with a 3D-enabled HDTV. In simple terms, all it takes to display 3D content is to modify their 120Hz and 240Hz 2D HDTVs to display two simultaneous streams of 1080p 60Hz content in a field sequential fashion. All that remains to render the impression of a three-dimensional image is to view the resultant sequential images with a pair of 3D glasses; the latter will enable the mind to fuse the two sequential 2-dimensional streams into one virtual 3D stream.

We said ‘that all it takes is to modify their 2D TVs to display 3D content‘. Keep in mind that any 3D-enabled TV is still an equally good 2D TV. In other words, bring 3D-enabled does not make an HDTV better at displaying 2D content.

Therefore from a TV maker’s perspective, one may very well argue that enabling a TV to display 3D images does not cost more than adding an extra feature to a good 2D TV! The only real extra cost for the TV makers industry are the extra LCD shutter glasses which in most cases are being burdened on the consumer; and in the case of passive 3D-glasses 3D TV technology, the extra cost is practically negligible!

This relatively low investment in 3D HDTVs is more than understandable. Despite the much noise by the industry during CES 2010 about 3D TVs, and the preference to 3D movies in the theater by moviegoers, the TV industry knows very well that consumers are not ready to spend much money on 3D TVs. Rather, the majority of customers would not even buy a 3D-enabled HDTV for the sake of 3D; even worse for the TV entertainment industry is that a good portion of TV viewers are not even willing to pay extra to watch 3D content!

This is not just a matter of the present bad economy. As we say in our article ‘Challenges of 3D Television in the Home‘, 3D television technology is still a long way from being considered the mainstream TV technology in home entertainment. The present 3D TV technology lacks the convenience, ease of use, and affordability many expect from a product supposedly addressed to the mass market.

Furthermore, most have replaced their CRT TV with a flat screen TV prior to the DTV transition deadline, while many others had invested in a second LCD or plasma HDTV just prior to the debut of 3D TV in 2010. The likelihood that these would now invest in a 3D HDTV to get what is being touted by many in the industry as the latest and greatest in TV technology, is simply close to nothing.

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