March 22, 2010

The big electronics manufacturers are pushing to get 3D televisions into our homes this year—from Sony to Samsung,  all the major players have announced plans for the release of mega screens, which will give us a whole new outlook in our living rooms. With the soaring success of 3D movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland and the advent of  3D TV broadcasts, it won’t be long before sets delivering extra perception will be hurtling at us with all the speed and ferocity of a jabberwocky.

So, what’s wrong with this scenario—apart from the fact that I just bought a flat screen two years ago? Well, at least one other thing:

Yep, the glasses that the manufacturers will make you buy—their price, their compatibility with TVs other than the one you purchase, their look. Prince Charles donned this pair of 3D glasses during his recent visit to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, and another while watching a screening of Alice in Wonderland. They weren’t nice looking, but they were cheap. The electronics companies will soon have you buying models that are neither inexpensive nor flexible nor princely.

A dark, looming screen has long been regarded as a decorative blight. But, it is a forgivable one for which we’ve devised many solutions (cloaking cabinets and consoles). We are less forgiving, however, about things we wear. Generally speaking, we are not willing to pay astronomical prices for body adornments that are uniform, bland, or clunky.

With the purchase of a 3D set, we would be staking a claim on a richer visual experience. Any accessory associated with the screen, it seems to me, would have to up the visual ante in the non-fantasy world as well—especially if it is one that will rest on our noses. But the electronics giants’ glasses are not aiming for that goal.

Sony, whose 3D TV will be coming out in June, is asking you to buy a $133 active-shutter pair that will work solely with their set and looks like a ViewMaster with earpieces. Panasonic, Samsung, LG, and Toshiba, too, will sell glasses that are compatible only with their own products.

To solve the compatibility problem, if not the broader issue of appeal, XpanD has come out with a $125 universal active shutter model—the X103. Good—sort of. The company appears to be betting that a chunky silhouette in 12 color options will offer enough flexibility in the self-expression department to get us off the couch and over to Best Buy.

Maybe. Maybe not. I think the producers of the ole buy-by-the-bulk cheap paper 3D glasses are more open-eyed about our tastes for variety and individuation than the makers of the new TVs. Check out these paper selections from the3Dmarket.com, a major purveyor to theaters and other significant sources of 3D entertainment.

Given the adventurousness of recent eyewear fashions and their huge appeal to consumers, I cannot understand why the electronics makers have not made a beeline over to Linda Farrow (http://www.lindafarrow.co.uk/) and asked the fashion designers in her fold to bring real flair to their 3D specs. Doesn’t a vanguard technology deserve a forward-looking partner? A designer imprimateur would command a high price but at least we’d be paying for something special—in all respects.

Linda Farrow’s  yellow 3C2 sunglasses by Berhard Willhelm, and red ‘Sunviser’ and brown ‘TVspecs’ pairs by Jeremy Scott are colorful, hip, and interesting. Their broadcast message: stylish, artistic, progressive.

I suspect that the company that comes out with the most fashionable and adaptable 3D glasses will be the industry’s game-changer. There is another important attribute the glasses should possess besides 3D capability and style: They should fit comfortably over a large pair of prescription glasses. And wouldn’t it be great if purchasers could remove the 3D lenses and swap in their own clear or tinted ones. Yes—how about a pair that could transition smoothly from fake world to real world, serving more than one purpose?

Now that would be an accessory I could get behind.

The 3D technological inventions of the consumer electronic companies may be very progressive. But their approach to design and their understanding of the consumer is still very much 1D. Why is it so hard for them to see the big picture?

For more on the sets, their prices, and their release dates: http://www.gizmag.com/3d-tv-release-date/14461/



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