What is the problem with 3D Television?

“We haven’t seen anything yet that doesn’t have a great degree of value added by being in 3D,” explains legendary filmmaker James Cameron. Cameron, the director of the two highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic and Avatar, makes these remarks in reference to his new project—and it isn’t a 3D film. Working with Avatar cameraman Vince Pace, the duo are creating a new camera piece that shoots in 3D while extracting a 2D feed, aiming to speed up the process of 3D technology and convince filmmakers to begin using it. Cameron breaks it down further, “We’re getting people to change their perception about 3D—not just the perception of the cost but the perception of the best business model.” The fact that Cameron, Hollywood’s top earner in 2010, has to endorse 3D to get the ball rolling tells us a couple things about 3D. One being that it is an innovative, profound change in the technology of entertainment media, the other: that consumers are flat out not buying it.

Yes, the sluggish economy and high unemployment in America obviously has a lot to do with low sales (particularly in entertainment markets_, but market research company NPD Group released a study earlier this month that showed that it isn’t just money. 42% of consumers cited not wanting to wear glasses as the reason for not yet purchasing a 3DTV. The study also showed that while there has been a great increase in consumer awareness of 3DTV’s, there has been no increase in sales, or even so much as an increase in the desire to own one. When critics and purchasers of 3D alike show nothing but praise, why is it so hard to get the general public’s attention?

A fear of change to take the next technological step seems the only logical answer. However, just like all adaptions and improvements in television history, success is inevitable. James Cameron recently predicted a future engorged with 100% 3D, “3D is how all broadcast entertainment will be done. Sports, episodic drama, scripted, unscripted—everything.” Of course Cameron is only speaking of 3D’s involvement in movies and television, but the third dimension could play a heavier role in all of our technological gadgets.

But, while printers, digital cameras, videogames, and various handheld devices are just a few contraptions receiving a 3D makeover, none of these trailblazing pieces are seeing much success. A recent report by Public Knowledge vents, “Just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer before it, people will see 3D as a disruptive threat. Others will see it as a groundbreaking tool to spread creativity and knowledge.” The report warns consumers not to be afraid, “It is critical that those who fear not stop those who are inspired.” A bit more rational, the video game industry recognizes the need for more time to adjust. Killzone 3 studio manager Herman Hulst explains Killzone 3’s 3D abilities, “3D is a great option, and it’s here to stay. But just like when we moved from mono sound to stereo sound, you have to wait for the audience to be ready. You don’t force people to adapt. After a while, they won’t want to go back.”

All the same, the day everyone decides to leave the second dimension and venture off into the third shouldn’t be far off. Apple, fresh off its success of the easy-to-use iPad, has already filed a patent on a method of 3D image projecting without the need for glasses. The brand that makes its name off of simplicity appears to be giving 3D a makeover for the stubborn consumers who still refuse to add another apparatus to their viewing technology—namely glasses.

Many consumers who sit in a room equipped with stereo sound, LCD screens, HD channels, and surround sound speakers still don’t seem to realize the changes, and challenges, they endured to enjoy their current home entertainment systems. The bottom line is that 3D televisions offer literally everything current set-ups have, and a hell of a lot more, yet they continue to collect dust at the local Best Buy. Hopefully not for long.