I don't really care much for 3D movies. There, I've said it, and probably made myself look like a curmudgeonly, out-of-touch luddite in the process. But nothing could be further from the truth: it's just that I think the technology isn't quite there yet. What we have now is a vast improvement over the old red and green anaglyph cardboard specs and crude polarised filters folks wore for early 3D classics, such as Bwana Devil and House of Wax way back in the '50s, but we still have some technical mountains to climb.
The reliance on glasses (whether passive - such as the circular polarised lenses of RealD products, often used in a theatre setting - or active technology, like the liquid crystal shutter glasses used for most home 3D solutions) is the biggest stumbling block. Glasses can cause nausea in some, and even manufacturers the likes of Samsung and Nintendo have warned that 3D products can be bad for your health - especially for the young, possibly causing eye strain and even epilepsy in people prone to seizures.
But even without those headline-grabbing issues, the glasses are often uncomfortable - especially over the duration of a movie - with people who already wear glasses in the unenviable position of wearing two pairs at the cinema. And the glasses cut up to half the light transmission as well, making for dim, murky images, sometimes leading to unpleasant colour shifts.
Clearly this is not the apex of 3D technology. It's a good start, perhaps, but not a long-term solution. Boffins in labs all over the world are acutely aware of this issue, and there is a scramble to be first with a viable stereo solution that doesn't require glasses. But we're at least a decade away from that, so that's 10 years of ill-fitting, poorly designed glasses we have to look forward to.
The long-term success of 3D does not rest with movies alone. And this is what makes the current wave of 3D different from the cycles that came before in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Games and televised sporting events are perhaps more likely to create a demand for 3D-enabled TVs. First-person shooters are already pretty immersive, but adding the third dimension will see you ducking as bullets whiz past, while 3D will put you in the stadium for the World Cup. You'll almost be able to smell the stale sweat of the fans surrounding you. At the most recent CES there were several consumer-based 3D camcorders, the best of which was JVC's GS-TD1, sporting a stereo 1080p resolution. Couple that with Junji Ikeda's StereoSplicer and homemade porn will never be the same.
As stereo glasses become ubiquitous, and the differences between competing standards are flattened, another kind of 3D will emerge: mobile platforms and the web. We're beginning to see the first tentative steps as developers working on the iOS and Android platforms dip their toes into stereoscopic 3D. The accelerometers and tiny gyroscopes contained within the latest smartphones mean the mobile platform could end up being the natural home for truly absorbing 3D.
Online ads are always trying to find new ways to grab your attention and battle the ad-blindness that many of us have developed. In the past, ads tried to be annoying, getting in your face with pop-ups, take-overs and flashing borders. Smarter advertisers have learned that the best ads can use the technology to be clever and funny, and soon ads will catch your attention by pushing into the z-space.
It won't be long before many of you are earning a living creating 3D content for TV shows, movies, music videos, console games, PC games, mobile games and advertising. So the sooner you can get your head around things like interaocular distance, stereo compositing in Nuke and creating games for Nintendo's 3DS, the better. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to find a cinema that's showing Tron Legacy in 2D.