Why 3D TV Failed (And Why We Don’t Care)

Why 3D TV Failed (And Why We Don’t Care)

In 2015, 3D was still present in most HD TVs. Not that you’d have known — advertisements had conspicuously stopped mentioning it. This year, the feature has been quietly killed off by most major manufacturers. After years of trying to convince consumers that 3D was the next big thing, it’s finally been consigned to the dustbin of history. Here’s why we won’t miss it.

From the very beginning, 3D TVs were a dubious and under-supported technology that most dismissed as a gimmick. Despite much-touted 3D Olympics, a 3D Foxtel channel and passionate endorsements from award-winning filmmakers, consumers refused to bite in large numbers.

As reported in the SMH, Samsung’s 2016 TV lineup contains no 3D functionality. At all. After years of desperately and unconvincingly championing the technology, the industry has completely given up.

Here are five reasons why 3D failed to thrive:

#1 Lack of content

When 3D TVs first became available, there were precisely zero 3D Blu-rays available. Even the massively hyped 3D extravaganza Avatar was originally released in 2D only. Content availability is often a problem when new hardware enters the market but this carried on for years. If you wanted to watch something in 3D, you were essentially forced to apply a crappy filter to your regular movies. This is a problem that 4K TV is currently suffering from. Hopefully, the belated release of 4K Blu-ray players will help to address this issue.

#2 Gimmicky reputation

Before the latest generation of 3D TVs crashed and burned, the technology had already failed — not once, but twice. Then there were the countless anaglyph 3D movies in el-cheapo drive-thru cinemas. Simply put, 3D entertainment had a deservedly ropy reputation which hampered its ability to succeed.

#3 Goofy glasses

In a bid to cut costs, most TV manufacturers bundled their 3D sets with cheap plastic glasses that looked rubbish and were uncomfortable to wear. Nobody wants to look like a tool while watching television.

#4 Eye strain

Unlike most new technologies, 3D TV caused serious compatibility issues with customers’ eyes. Some people simply can’t “do” 3D. It makes them feel dizzy and can be actively bad for you. The damage this caused via word-of-mouth was probably substantial.

#5 It was more hassle than it’s worth

With finicky calibration, compulsory glasses, troublesome viewing angles and patchy support, 3D TV was a tough slog to set up. For most users, the payoff wasn’t worth the effort. Like Microsoft Kinect, it asked a lot from the consumer and delivered very little reward.

Does anyone regularly use 3D TV for movies or gaming? If so, will you be sad to see it go? Share your opinions in the comments.


  • Like Microsoft Kinnect, it asked a lot from the consumer and delivered little.


    • Kinect was a bitch to set up and use. I can’t think of a single game or application that was worth the effort.

      • Xbox On.
        Xbox Volume Up (on my receiver btw, not the TV)
        Xbox Watch Channel 7
        Xbox Go To Netflix
        Xbox Go To Forza Horizon.

        The only reason Kinect sucks is because Microsoft dumped it and left half arse remnants with the windows 10 UI update. Although to be honest, if they offered the Kinect microphone array without the camera I don’t think I’d notice. It was great in the original XB1 UI when the camera would look for movement and not turn off due to being idle, but with the new UI it just turns off anyway.

      • A bitch to set up? You must be quite inept. You plug in the cables and talk to it and it listens and acts on the commands given. Agree with dknigs below. I use Kinect all the time and have not had any issues.

        • You all seem to be focusing on voice commands. This is not the primary purpose of Kinect. For motion-control gaming it is absolutely a bitch to set up – particularly if your lounge room isn’t massive and free of furniture. (i.e. – almost everyone.)

  • I was sort of interested in 3D TV right up until I got my DK1, so much better even with the lower resolution.

  • Normal human vision is in stereoscopic 3D. This is just as much an attribute to television and other forms of imaging as color, sound, and motion. The only problem is that in order to see stereoscopically, each eye must see the image intended for it, and not the other image. This is the purpose of 3D viewing glasses, and for the different angles used in autostereoscopic systems. the marketing of 3D television was handled very poorly, including false information in the manufacturer’s disclaimers. Contrary to popular belief, watching 3D is not only not harmful to normal vision, but actually beneficial.

  • For me, 3D had a relatively small window of opportunity to stick, and dropped the ball. Big time.

    When Avatar was released on disc, they made the 3D version exclusive to a specific brand. Panasonic I think it was, doesnt really matter. The only way to get a copy of the movie was by buying that brand. And as no other movies were coming along that really made 3D shine, the window of opportunity was missed.

    I have a 3D TV, and use it maybe once every 6 months. I didnt buy specifically for the 3D capability, but because every 3D tele at the time had all the features I really wanted, so it was a quick filter.

    Its fun. When it works, it does add something to the experience. But they havent made it easy to invest in the technology, either by ripping you off with prices, or by simply not bothering with releases at all.

    • Que? I bought 3D Avatar and I have a Sony Bravia and it played fine (with a Philips Blu-ray player). The media killed 3D TV… people still flock to the movies to watch 3D.

      • Back when it first came out on 3D, it was limited. And it missed the opportunity to push the tech when interest was at its highest. They released the movie to a wider audience later, but the 3D version WAS exclusive at the time. Was exclusive to Panasonic (I went and checked), being distributed in Dec 2010, around a year after the cinema run.

        It wasnt that it didnt play on different players or screens, just that you couldnt buy it off the shelf until 2012, nearly 3 years after it was in the cinemas.

        That was such a massive missed opportunity, and for me was one of the key reasons 3D didnt get the interest it needed. There was no content, and that high profile content was made way too hard to get.

        It wasnt the only reason, but to me it was significant.

  • What the hell are the people in the picture looking at?

    I used 3D once on my TV to watch Mad Max: Fury Road 3D and that is all, not a feature I will miss. If they can do good 3D without the need for glasses then they will be on to something.

    • Jackass 3D was probably the best use of 3D I ever saw in a film. I still have no problem watching a movie in 3D if it was filmed in 3D.

  • Not being able to adjust focus for different depths of field, as your eyes can in the real world, is something I could never get used to.

  • Wont miss it

    I tried to play with it when i first got the TV (and then 3d was not a factor at all in my decision to purchase), it was either crappy, didn’t work or i couldn’t really tell the difference. But then i haven’t seen any 3d movies at the cinema either (well not since or before honey i shrunk the audience at disney world 20 years ago).

    I nearly went to see avatar in 3d, but since there was no information (besides a few stories about effects a few hours later, so not really hard evidence) about 3d movies for people with epilepsy, i recommended to my girlfriend that we give it a miss, and never attempted to see one again.

    • I had a 3d tv up until the display malfunctioned recently. I’ve been using the feature regularly and enjoyed the increasing number of media put into 3d. I’m so much regretting the drop of support by the manufacturers. BTW I’m epileptic and I watched everything I can get my hands on in 3d in both cinema and home theater and had no problems with it, it may cause problems in some of the most severe cases of the disorder but it’s not bad at all. 3D was by no means perfect but it was the future indeed and 2d will never be as real. And polarized glasses were great despite the drop in resolution, there may have been some issues with active 3d calibration and price but polarized was just fine as far as I’m concerned. I’ll always hate the TV manufacturers for letting us down!

  • I don’t mind watching 3D movies, when a movie is filmed in 3D. Diluting the 3D content with faux 3D was just wrong. The biggest thing I discovered when watching with active glasses was that I needed to turn off every light in the room, and only watch at night. The flickering of the glasses on non-tv lighting was terrible and would cause distraction / headache.

    • Yeh, agree. In my opinion, you could apply this to just about any “new” technology TV manufacturers cram into their sets in the hope of a new sale. Can’t see anything bringing back the glory days of TV sales like when plasma’s started to knock CRT’s off the perch… maybe a full on holographic display…

  • Though Jackass claimed to be shot in native stereo, it was not fully shot in native stereo. That is why there are stereo conversion artists listed on the imdb page for that movie. The same goes for a lot of the “native” 3D movies. there is a lot of tweaking to be done even on natively shot stereo. The camera rigs are not perfect and a bitch to set up for scenes. Things have to be very planned for shooting this way. It is very limiting for a film maker, and any Cg is rendered in stereo is put in much later and they try to match the depth or not at all. I’m glad to read this article. Death to 3D. My only question is what will become of James Cameron?

  • I must be the only one left that actually enjoy 3d TV at home. With passive 3d glasses. It doesn’t need to be in your face 3d (As it was in the 80s) but it does add a depth. When done right…….Sad and lonely now am I 🙁

  • Put aside 3d TV for the moment, and consider “content”. Over the past few years, I have seen TWO decent 3d movies: Avatar, and Gravity. The 3d in Gravity wasn’t “in your face”, is was subtle but I quite enjoyed it.
    Now, back to TV: buy a fancy new format for the sake of TWO movies? I don’t think so.

  • First of all it wasn’t even 3D, It was2.5D – 2D picture with depth informations. And that pissed me the most. I’m happy it goes away so maybe they will now focus on making real 3D displays.

  • The problem with 3d was active- i had it on a laptop i bought many years ago and felt dizzy within minutes of playing games on it. If lights were on a flickering effect ensues. Active 3d is disgusting technology. LG passive if awesome, just like being at the cinema. I just watched Ghostbusters on my new 65 inch LG OLED G6 and OMFG it looks amazing- and that was from a 2.3gb 1080p MKV. It is also good to have a big TV when watching 3d. Active dizzy flicker vision is what killed 3d (with all the people originally backing it up as good b/c they spent a fortune on a set only to agree several years later how dissapointing it is). I don’t plan on watching constant 3d, but for the occasional movie maybe 4 times a year it is a great feature.

  • If 3D TV is as dead as you say it is. Why then are new 3D Blu-ray being released every month in Australia? Take a look at JB’s website.

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