CES 2011: 3D Assessment

There are two types of 3D on the floor: with glasses and autostereoscopic (no glasses). Sharp and Toshiba had autostereoscopic. We did an informal assessment of the 3D by walking up to 16 displays and visually evaluating the 3D and overall display image quality. I have a background in holography research and have seen many 3D displays using coherent light. This is high quality 3D which needs no glasses. Also did research in Integral Photography which is incoherent light 3D and can be made similar to holography.

The Rating Exercise

High quality 3D creates a visual image where the screen becomes immaterial to the image space created. This was only seen on one display – a Samsung 75” LED display where the fish appeared in front of the screen. We rated this an 8 and it was the only display to achieve this level.

The quality of the 3D is heavily influenced by the content. The farther away the objects are the lower the 3D impression due simply to the intraocular distance of the eyes. As objects are imaged, with the 3D camera, the closer they are to the camera the more realistic the 3D. This is one reason that animated movies can be so compelling: the imaging geometry can be carefully controlled by the creator. Close up sports is another. The impression of the quality of 3D can vary from image sequence to sequence. From an observer’s standpoint the more the content has marginal 3D qualities the less interest there is in wearing the glasses.

Generally a large screen is better for 3D. This creates a wider field of view and can make the screen size large compared to the intraocular distance. The largest display was the Samsung 3D Arena with 50 screens. We found it distracting and difficult to get immersed and rated it a 3.

One display, described as 3D from a PC, was in the Toshiba booth on a large screen. The combination of poor image quality and distracting 3D netted only a 2. We could not see how anyone would like to spend any time in front of this display.


The ratings ranged from 2 to 8 with an average of 4.7. As a result we have doubts this market will take off. Our reasoning includes the following:

3D content is special and we expect that this will remain the same for the foreseeable future. For example, will the local news currently seen in HD go to 3D? – We doubt it. Thus, 3D will remain a special viewing experience not mainstream.

Glasses are not something which many consumers will like. Just look at the penetration of contact lenses – many do not want to wear glasses. This might be acceptable for the occasional movie but unlikely as a routine matter in the living room.

Buying an expensive 3D large screen television, after making a recent investment in a HD television, is something we see only early adopters doing. The average TV set has a lifetime of 7 years and to replace the relatively new one with another one just to see 3D is unlikely.

Based on this informal assessment, we doubt that consumers will find the visual differential from 2D to 3D anywhere as great as the differential from SD to HD. Further, HD content has become quite pervasive, both over the air and acquired, but this is not the case for 3D.

The motivation of the display panel industry and CE companies with 3D is to sustain the ASP of displays when the market direction of HD display cost is just the opposite.  Consumers will have to agree with this to create a significant market in 3D displays.


This leads us to the simple conclusion that 3D, at present, is not a compelling visual medium to drive consumers to make a large market for the flat panel and consumer electronics industry.

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