Electronics industry pushes 3D TVs on consumersby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Best Buy in Richfield, has about a dozen 3D TVs and they're blowing away folks like Beatrice Naranjo, who was very impressed.
That is, once she figured out how to turn on the special glasses needed to watch.
"It's awesome," Naranjo said. "It's like the movies."
Manufacturers and retailers, like Richfield-based Best Buy, are starting to push 3D TVs that give viewers a startling perception of depth and reality.
3D TVs -- when they're operating in 3D mode -- generate distinct views for your left and right eye. Without special 3D glasses those left and right views appear as blurry, overlapping images. But slip on a pair of battery-powered 3D glasses and you get a realistic perception of depth -- like that monster is really going to take a nip out of you.
Larry Gamboni of Bloomington said the effect is really convincing, like when he watched a classic 3D move decades ago.
"The first I ever saw as a kid was Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D," Gamboni said. "And it scared the whillikers out of me."
For now, manufacturers are focused on putting 3D technology into their biggest sets. With glasses and a Blu-ray player, 3D systems are averaging between $3500 and $4000.
Gamboni says he'll stick with 2D TV for now.
"20 years from now when the price comes down, a guy might be able to afford one," he said.
In reality, it won't be long before every TV sold, including much less expensive models, will be 3D capable. But buyers will need 3D glasses, a player and something to watch.
"We have one movie in stock that's in authentic 3D. That's 'Monsters vs. Aliens,'" said John Eichten, who sells TVs at the Richfield store.
He said it's pretty much just so-called early adopters who are biting so far.
Sales of 3D TVs seem relatively slow. But Best Buy execs are bullish about 3D reigniting consumer interest in TVs. Eichten said there'll be more to watch soon -- and that figures to help sales. "By the end of the year, we're supposed to be carrying upwards of 40 or 50 movies in 3D -- Authentic 3D," Eichten said. "As far as television goes, obviously the World Cup is going to be filmed in 3D."
ESPN's new 3D channel is broadcasting 25 World Cup soccer matches. And the network plans to show about 80 other events in 3D in its first year. The Discovery channel is also planning a 3D channel.
Several video game publishers are expected to unveil 3D games at a big industry trade show in Los Angeles this week.
And not surprisingly, the giant porn industry is already gearing up to provide its product in 3D.
"We're kind of in a 3D euphoria phase," said Chris Chinnock, president of the Insight Media consulting group. He said what movie studios and TV manufacturers see in 3D is money.
"The studios are motivated to try to bring 3D to the home because it's good revenue source for them," Chinnock said. "TV makers are motivated to bring 3D to the home because it is a new technology, and they always want to have the next new thing to excite consumers."
This year, Chinnock forecasts U.S. consumers will buy about one million 3D capable TVs. That's about three percent of all TVs expected to be sold. But by 2014, Chinnock predicts 3D TV sales will jump to 50 million.
But not all programming lends itself to 3D. Megan Pollock of the Consumer Electronics Association expects the technology will pretty much be limited to movies and sports.
"You're not going to be watching the nightly news and cooking dinner with your 3D glasses on. It's still a really immersive experience," Pollock said. "You want to sit back and watch."
Events like the World Cup. Beatrice Naranjo would really like to see her native county's national team win it all in 3D.
"I hope Chile wins. If they do, I might get one," she said.
- All Things Considered, 06/14/2010, 4:50 p.m.