Sunday, November 12, 2006
Is High Definition Already an Endangered Species?
High Definition Television is all the rage these days. Prices on High Definition TV sets are dropping and will soon fall below the price where many analysts believe that consumers will begin buying them up in droves. High Definition programming is also more widely available and aired on more channels than ever before. There are also more supporting technologies like HD Digital Video Recorders and next generation DVD's capable of storing High Definition video content.
All of this bodes well for High Definition Television as a television format, but the fact that it's not a particularly new format combined with the fact that new television technology is being developed faster now than ever before could cause it's demise just as it's really starting to take hold. The problem for High Definition Television is that there's a new television technology just over the horizon that promises benefits above and beyond what High Definition Television can provide.
That technology is three dimensional television technology, and several major electronics manufacturers including Toshiba, Philips, and Sharp are working to refine it. Although Sharp is already selling a laptop computer that can supposedly display images in 3-D, Philips is at the forefront of three dimensional television with it's WOWvx display. WOWvx technology takes advantage of lenses in the screen to project slightly different images at different angles so that each of the viewer's eyes catch a slightly different different view resulting in a three dimensional effect, and though there is some distortion while moving around in front of the screen, the viewer can see the displayed object from different angles. The technology is already so well developed that Philips is already marketing a WOWvx display to businesses vying to get the attention of people walking by. The display costs over $12,000 and will display three dimensional programming, 1080p High Definition programming, and even has software which can up convert two dimensional programming to three dimensional, although the up converted programming doesn't look as good as the programming designed to be three dimensional in the first place.
In fact, it would be safe to assert that WOWvx technology is already good enough to be marketed commercially to the general public. The only three major hindrances to such a move would be the fact that there is very little three dimensional television programming available right now, the software to up convert two dimensional programming is less than satisfactory, and of course that $12,000 plus price tag. On the other hand, there's already talk of producing commercial movies in three dimensional format, the software can only improve, and the prices of new electronics always start out astronomically high and then rapidly go down as the technology takes hold. For these reasons it might not be unreasonable to expect that 3-D TV might be very common within the next ten years. Maybe even within the next five!
And there lies the threat to High Definition Television: Now the average consumer has something really impressive to look forward to. Sure High Definition Television is cool, with the wide screen and stunningly high resolution, but that really doesn't hold a candle to a display that makes it look like the action is jumping off of the screen at you. For that reason alone, it may be tempting for the average consumer to skip High Definition in order to hold out for the truly incredible television experience possible with 3-D.