If you're thinking of buying a new HDTV, you're likely pondering the whole "Do I want 3D?" question.
Most HDTV makers have ceased headlining their wares as "3D!" since so many seem to think a 3D HDTV plays ONLY 3D and not normal TV (which, of course is wrong). But more and HDTVs are being built with the 3D capability built in, meaning if you spring for a step-up model, it'll likely include 3D capabilities.
In other words, you may end up with a 3D HDTV whether you intended to or not. Which is not a bad thing, since the technologies that enable 3D create the best regular 2D HDTVs.
Once you have a 3D HDTV, you will be curious about what 3D actually looks like. But one of the myriad problems with 3D HDTV are those damned glasses – who ever heard of wearing glasses to watch TV?
Plus, the so-called "active shutter" glasses are expensive – LG's Cinema 3D HDTVs use an inferior so-called "passive" 3D technology, which require the kind of cheap, non-powered sunglasses-like 3D glasses you get in a movie theater. (See my earlier "3D HDTV Format War Declared" for a more complete explanation of how the two differ.)
Active shutter glasses have other problems. Unlike passive glasses, they require battery power, which means they will run out of power and will need to be recharged.
Finally – and this is my long-winded way of getting to the point of this post – is active-shutter 3D glasses are incompatible.
In other words, if you buy a Panasonic 3D HDTV, you can't bring your glasses to a friend's house and watch a 3D show on their Sony or Samsung 3D HDTV.
But you soon may.
Universal 3D glasses – finally
Earlier today (Monday), Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and 3D glasses maker XpanD announced they've combined to create a "universal" 3D glasses standard.
Regardless of which 3D HDTV you buy – probably starting with next year's models – from any of the three TV makers, the glasses from each can be used with 3D HDTVs from the others, as well as with 3D computer screens.
If you get a headache while watching in 3D, these new glasses are imbued with technology to turn the 3D picture everyone else is looking at into 2D for you.
The way the these "active" shutter glasses work is they use a radio frequency that send syncing signals back-and-forth between the 3D HDTV and the glasses. Each 3D HDTV maker uses different syncing radio frequencies, which is what makes the glasses incompatible.
The new universal glasses will use Bluetooth, a more intelligent and standardized radio frequency technology. Supposedly, using Bluetooth also will enable more advanced functions. What these advanced functions may include – other than being able to sit a bit farther away from your HDTV – I guess we'll find out.
But the best news is that a Bluetooth-based universal glasses standard means anyone will be able to manufacture them, which means competition, which means lower prices for these 3D glasses, which usually cost around $100 a pair.
The universal glasses also will be backward compatible, witch means if you already have a 3D HDTV from Panasonic, Sony or Samsung, you'll be able to use these new (hopefully cheaper) universal glasses with them.
But why are we fussing with 3D glasses to begin with, you're asking? Because we a long, long, long, long time away from viable glasses-free 3D HDTV.