I have seen the future -- and it's in 3D.
The prevailing opinion in the Blabbersphere seems to be that 3D television is too expensive and cumbersome and we all feel silly wearing sunglasses inside like Kanye West. I understand the feeling -- I'm one of the few sentient beings on earth who still hasn't watched Avatar because I've already seen both Pocahontas and the Blue Man Group. But I still thought I should see 3D TV for myself.
Ninety seconds at Manhattan's Sony Style Retail Store was all it took to change my mind. That's because the store's 3D sampler begins with footage of a polar bear swimming at Japan's Asahikawa Zoo, footage so clear that I could make out every hair on its body -- which isn't something I necessarily wanted to see. But when the beast swam up to the glass it was as if there was a real bear inside a tank. Likewise, a scene of a landscape with melting snow actually had me glancing at the ceiling to see if there was a leak.
3D technology definitely amps up sporting events. Watching last year's World Cup, I felt like I was on the field and the ball was heading my way -- actually not a pleasant feeling, either, considering I was the kid who always got picked last for teams, often after several athletic girls and once after a kid with scoliosis in a body cast. Even better were the video games. I gasped out loud when the car in Forza Motorsport flew off a cliff, and I ducked a few times during Wipeout, still more evidence that I am a nine-year-old girl in a grown man's body.
My favorite footage, though, came from Wheel of Fortune, a sentence I have never written before. True, HD has not been kind to Pat Sajak, whose gelatinous face looks like it's melting into his collar while Vanna White remains ageless next to him like the Picture of Dorian Gray. But the show, with its sparkling set, feels like it's happening in your living room. You'll have to decide for yourself whether you want to invite over stupid contestants who can't spell.
For a comparison, I next plopped myself down in front of an HD TV and found that the major difference isn't the clarity or even the depth, it's the way 3D invades your personal space. Which is why the 3D revolution will be led by consumers of porn.
As for price, the Sony sales guy told me he expects their 3D TVs to be priced 20% higher than HD TVs. That seems right to me -- I found the viewing experience to be about 20% better. Sure, it may take a while for it to catch on, but there's no turning back. Humans crave interaction and technology provides a far more exciting version than reality, which, incidentally, also comes in 3D.
So until scientists create a transporter that'll actually take us to the World Cup or a Japanese zoo, a ridiculously expensive TV with silly glasses will have to do.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
3D TV - is it worth it? Our Upside columnist has a moment of clarity