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GDC Online: Research Finds Glasses, Misinformation Biggest Challenges For 3D
GDC Online: Research Finds Glasses, Misinformation Biggest Challenges For 3D Exclusive
October 5, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

Much is being made of 3D as the next big frontier in home entertainment, but the actual breadth of consumer interest remains something of an open question, as does how much time widespread adoption will take to attain.

Aiming to get a clearer view of the 3D audience, research firm Interpret conducted a detailed online survey, polling 1500 consumers ages 12-65 to find out how much they knew about 3D technology, what they liked and disliked about it, and whether they planned to buy a 3D-able television. Interpret's Michael Cai presented his findings at the Game Developers Conference Online in Austin.

Regarding the research methodology itself, Cai said it was important to the research not only to capture a thorough range of age and gender groups, but to mine for stats as deep as possible.

"We didn't just ask them up front 'do you have a 3D TV,'" he explained. "We showed them a series of questions really letting them know how we define 3D."

The study found 13 percent of people who are in the market to purchase a new high-definition television in the next year said they "definitely will buy" a 3D-ready television, while 10 percent "definitely will not buy."

Among those hoping to bring 3D into their homes, the most popular reason was the attempt to create a movie theater experience in their living room.

In terms of major obstacles to 3D, Cai said the glasses issue came up time and time again-- both the physical discomfort of wearing them and the expense, said Cai.

46 percent of people who said they didn't want a 3D television said that having to wear glasses was the main reason they resisted the tech. But the biggest barrier for 3D seems to be price, with 69 percent claiming that the televisions, which cost thousands of dollars, are cost-prohibitive.

Nevertheless, the most interesting takeaway from Interpret's research appears to be that consumer education is set to be the biggest challenge to 3D adoption -- even among game console owners, generally a tech-savvy audience.

63 percent of console owners think that all they need is a firmware update to enable 3D in their homes, the research found. 83 percent of consumers think that all 3D requires glasses, despite increasing awareness of Nintendo's 3DS and the growth of similar glasses-free 3D tech.

Cai said the 3DS in particular is "going to be a very important driver" of acceptance and desire of 3D technologies, suggesting that all parties hoping to make strides in the 3D space will suffer a bit from Nintendo's decision to launch the handheld in spring 2011, rather than this holiday.

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Lo Pan
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As someone who has a 3D TV having to pay $140 per glasses and then buy a 3D Blu Ray player is a deal breaker to watching 3D.

Christer Kaitila
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My personal take on why 3d isn't ready for prime time: glasses are "uncool". They are unfashionable and dorky. People find it utterly embarrassing to be seen wearing 3d glasses. When you put them on, you get laughed at. "Only nerds wear glasses". Our society is far too image-conscious. Fashion reigns supreme, especially among the teen target demographic.

Consumers might be tempted to put up with discomfort, expense, headaches and nausea, but looking like a dork? No thank you!

Russell Carroll
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"Our society is far too image-conscious."

Change too:

"Our society is far too juvenile."

Which could then be used to discuss just about every topic under the sun from the so-called console wars, to political campaigns, to popular entertainment.

I agree with the sentiment and would love to hear ways to help people consider more :).

David Hottal
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I don't find the glasses to be too dorky to wear, just too cumbersome. Sure, watching a movie at the theater in 3D is not a big deal because it's an event. But, I don't really want to be sitting around the house wearing 3D glasses watching the evening news.

For 3D to really take off we need 'glasses-less' 3D tech. Nintendo has the right idea.

Eric Kwan
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I understand that the glasses are cumbersome and ugly, but does no one but me think that the biggest roadblock to widespread 3D adoption is the multi-thousand dollar buy in price? I think this holds especially true right now, during a recession and right after the big switch to digital, where a lot of people had to buy new equipment.

Matt Marquez
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Did the survey actually mention the 3DS? If I were taking the survey I would think only along the lines of what Sony was doing despite knowing full well about the 3DS. You need glasses for everything else, but with the 3DS it feels like it's in different level. Probably why it's not only more accepted but also anticipated.

The fireware update thing is surprising, though. (more so that people actually know what that is - assuming that they do)

Jacob Pederson
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The "63 percent of console owners think that all they need is a firmware update to enable 3D in their homes," smells like the answer to a poorly worded question to me. It seems incredibly unlikely that someone who knows what a firmware update is doesn't known what type of TV they own.

Adam Phillips
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As much as I like being an early adopter... I view 3D as a dangerous technology. The adverse health risks reported by sega, samsung, nintindo, etc. are a pretty big turn off. Prices always drop as tech gets better, but if it's hazardous to my vision I don't really care if they give it away free.

A few interesting articles on 3D health risks



Ian Uniacke
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I understand your point of view but I think these statements are a playing it safe approach more than any real hazard (but who knows). I remember the same things being said about microwave ovens when they were first popularised.

Adam Phillips
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Comparing 3D to early microwaves doesn't really make sense. For 3D to "work" the product has to physically trick your eyes into seeing depth where there is none. Microwaves don't require a person's organs to adapt in order to function.

Playing it safe might be the right idea. Just imagine adding 3D to a game like Guitar Hero, a game that already adds a considerable Motion After-Effect for some. Definitely wouldn't want to play 30 minutes of that before having to drive.

Joe Cooper
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Imagine if there was some sort of flat-paneled entertainment and work device that sits 2 ft. away from you for 8 hours a day and causes near-sightedness.

You wouldn't use that, right?

Ben Droste
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I think 3D has a long way to go yet before it's at a standard and price I would be happy to pay for it.

My biggest issues:

The glasses - they are awkward and uncomfortable and I don't like wearing them. It would help if I could find some that were better made to fir the shape of my face, but so far they mostly seem to follow the same wide, uncomfortable square shape. As for being dorky, I don't think anyone cares about that when they're watching TV on their own, but with other people it can feel a little silly. I'm sure that's something people would get over in time though.

The pain - 3D seems to hurt everyone's eyes differently. Some so much they can't watch it and some not at all. If 3D becomes the de facto standard people who cant stand to view it will be side lined, and those that can somewhat bare it will probably use it much less. I wonder how much this problem has to do with the technology though, specifically the shutter type glasses that 3D TVs use. I've found these hurt my eyes much more than the polarised glasses commonly used in cinemas, which don't hurt my eyes at all.

The technology - Perhaps it's just me, but every game I've viewed on a 3D TV, doesn't look right. The scene itself appears to have depth, as do any objects that extend into depth, but less objects with less depth to them - such as characters and small objects - tend to look like cardboard cut-outs standing in the scene, especially when they are about mid range into the scene. Perhaps this is just bad implementation combined with first gen technology, but it still breaks the illusion. Interestingly, I've never had this problem watching 3D films at a cinema.

The resolution - correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I can tell (both from working with 3D at work and looking at other games at TGS) all 3D games seem to work by rendering the left and right images on screen at once by splitting the horizontal resolution. Essentially making the final image 960*1080. This is a noticeable drop in quality, and in particular on thin, vertical objects such as street lights. Watching GT5 in 3D at TGS you could see the thin poles flicker in and out as they moved across the screen.

My hope is that in 5 years time glasses-less 3D TVs will be affordable and of a decent size (I'm not replacing my non-3D 46" Bravia with a $3000 20" no-glasses 3DTV) and the technology will have improved enough to overcome the other problems I've listed above.

Until then I'm not interested in buying one.

Jasper W
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Also, directors need to learn better to guide the users focalization. I get headaches from 3D content in which I am constantly trying to figure out where they want me to focus!

Alan Kennedy
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So people think 3D is the next best thing? Guess people forget its already been tried and failedin the 60's - 70's. One of the questions that should have been asked is - Do you think 3D technology is needed; or would you prefer companies to work on holographic technology. In otherwords, would consumers prefer true 3D over optical illusions/tricks of the mind? Its bad enough the high price tag, to be tricked into believing 3D is actually a technology; is unethical of companies.

Ian Uniacke
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I can see what you're saying from two points:

One you seem to be talking about 3d in the sense of glasses 3d which I think I might agree with you on.

The other is talking about 3d in general which I don't think your comparison to the 60s actually holds water. It's like saying "nintendo tried motion controls in the 80s and it failed then so it'll fail...hang on". 3d failed in the 60s because the technology wasn't mature enough, just like the Power Glove was using technology that wasn't mature enough. As to whether the technology for 3d is mature enough now, we'll see, I'm not necessarily saying it is ready for prime time yet.

Alan Jack
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Does anyone ever wonder if the rise in 3D is a knee-jerk reaction to the rise in the games market?

I was about to post something about how 3D wasn't really 3D, but 2D-with-depth - that 3D TV would allow me to rotate the camera around, look everywhere I wanted, and interact with my environment. Then I realised I had that, it's called GTA IV.

Raymond Grier
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The rise in 3D is a knee-jerk to Avatar, it's hype and it's enormous profit.

Brian Bartram
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For me, the glasses aren't really the issue. After half an hour of watching 3D, I stop noticing the 3D effect. It's just a novelty which wears off. I really don't see the value of investing so much money into a system whose effect is transient. It just seems like consumer electronics companies trying to hype the tech, more than people actually being impressed by the effect of the tech. I have yet to meet anybody who insists that you have to see a movie or game for the impressive 3D effects.

If a 3D system cost the same as a regular 2D system, and I was in the market for a new system, I'd consider it. Otherwise, I'm saving my $ for experiences that are genuinely different.

Ian Uniacke
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You absolutely "have" to see Despicable Me for the 3d effects. I'm not just saying that to be ironic either.

I would say 3d has more of an impact than HD personally. It's the same thing, after a while you don't notice the effect. I'm in agreement with you in a sense. But one of the issues is that we haven't yet developed proper grammar for 3d. If you watch Despicable Me you will see for instance that the director has created numerous shots that could only work in 3d. And I'm not counting gimmicky "oh look a gun is pointing at my face" type shots, although the movie does have a couple of those. I'm talking genuinely new dramatic shots. Once these kind of ideas become more mature then 3d has a much bigger oppurtunity to affect us as viewers/game players than HD.

Raymond Grier
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This article also hasn't been very successful in educating people about 3D technology. Half the responses to it are about how much people dislike the glasses.....It's proven that it can be done without them, it's mentioned in the article but still people are talking about the glasses and maybe making them more form-fitting so they will be socially acceptable.

Joe Cooper
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I read about a survey where they found people were trying the shutter goggles in stores, thinking they couldn't see 3D because they didn't realize the glasses were off. This happened to me.

There is also a lot of defective content that will give people the impression that they can't see 3D.

For example, a friend of mine told me that anaglyph glasses (red-cyan) "do not work"; he "can't see 3D" with them. He assumed this was his eyes.

We both got some anaglyph glasses, though, and we learned that he CAN see just fine through them. What really happened was that when he had tried them before, he saw defective images and assumed the problem was himself.

When I got the glasses, I learned that most anaglyph content and some 3D content does not work for various reasons, including samples on NVidia's website.

I suspect a large number of content producers are not actually testing with glasses.

1) Many images don't have the focal point set correctly. Even pictures from people who should know better, like NASA, have the object you're trying to focus on overlayed about 50+ pixels apart, and trying to focus on it is like holding something off the end of your nose.

2) In one case, the rightleft images were set apart VERTICALLY. (Was it produced by a flounder fish?)

3) Some correctly formatted 3D movies I found just plain didn't appear 3D. the computer was correctly displaying them as correct anaglyphs, and I even tried various modes to ensure there was no color bleeding. This includes movies from NVidia's and Youtube's anaglyph 3D samples.

Many, many anaglyph specific issues:

3) An iOS game I bought that supports them tries to show BRIGHT RED objects. These show up BLACK in one eye, causing a bizarre flashing that can break the 3D effect. Producers like these fail to take into account the fact that THE LENSES ARE RED AND F-ING BLUE. It is flat-out impossible to not notice if you just PUT ON THE F-ING GLASSES.

4) Many people post anaglyph pictures and videos using JPEG and conventional video formats that break the anaglyph pictures because the compression algorithm throws away color data if misconfigured. Again, it is not possible to notice if you EVER test it. It looks like an anaglyph, but when you put on the glasses, it is not 3D.

Most content I found was like this.

Remember that anaglyphs do matter; NVidia is pimping them as a way to introduce yourself to the awesome of 3D, and if they go explore, this is what people will find and they won't understand why it doesn't work.

I easily conjured up an image myself which my friend could see perfectly fine, disproving that he had some natural inability to see these pictures.

I'm pretty sure that creators are either not doing the testing at all, or like my friend assume that the image is correct but the problem is in their heads.

Somewhat bizarrely, I find multiple people putting positive comments on Youtube anaglyph videos which cannot possibly work because they didn't use Youtube's 3D format feature and the image was broke by compression.

My working theory is that people posting think it's cool in spirit but also don't have actual glasses.

Regardless, if someone were to try NVidia's glasses, see these videos on Youtube that don't work and positive comments, they would most likely assume they're an oddball who isn't compatible with this whole 3D thing.

That said, there were a few things that worked with the glasses and I thought they were really enjoyable. I love seeing Mars in 3D.

I'm very suspicious of the dorky glasses comments because of the bizarre way that people regurgitate the same line verbatim like a catch phrase.

All I can think of here is another old line; "ideas that spread, win".