3D TV never really caught on because of one obvious flaw: You need to wear silly, uncomfortable 3D glasses to watch it. The experience is even worse if you already need regular glasses — you end up wearing two pairs at once.
But tucked away in a small, unpublicized corner of the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week was a large-screen 3D TV that blew my mind: It showed crisp, deep, hi-def, 3D images all on its own.
No glasses required.
There was only one problem: The company “promoting” the TV, Changhong, was doing a better job of hiding it. Only one unit was on display, in a section of the exhibit that looked slightly detached from the company’s main room. The TV was unaccompanied by any leaflets, technical specs, or promotional literature. And both times I visited the booth there wasn’t an attendant in sight to explain how the damn thing works.
A mystery. But there it was: A TV showing the equivalent of a hologram on a flat screen.
This 2D photo doesn’t do it justice, of course. But take my word for it: There was genuine depth to the images, you could see characters on the screen moving further and nearer from you as well as just side to side, like on regular TV.
The definition was good but not perfect. It was definitely “hi-def,” in the sense that the picture was better than the old vacuum tube TVs we used to watch before they were all replaced by flat screens. But it wasn’t like watching a modern 2D hi-def screen, where you can see every hair and pore.
And the TV was playing in a suspiciously darkened cove, as if it somehow needed a low-light environment to pull out the 3D effect.
Nonetheless, it was impressive. It felt as if they had proved the concept was viable, and with enough refinements and enhancements the picture would be perfect: Almost real 3D movies playing on a flat screen.
I’d never heard of Changhong before. The company’s web site indicates it’s actually in an alliance with other manufacturers such as Samsung to sell 3D TVs with glasses.
The only other clue was the “Dolby” logo in the corner of the screen.
Turns out, Dolby is working with a bunch of manufacturers on glasses-free hi-def TV. Sharp and Philips are among the partners. Early reviews are positive.
Who knows, in a couple of years we could all be watching TV in 3D.