That might be a bold sentiment to use for an opinion title but what they hey. Trouble has been brewing for years in the 3D market and now movies are trying to force it into dominance, to make it mass-market. But ultimately, they’ve missed the point – Stereoscopic 3D cannot be the future. Here’s why.
There’s been a lot of talk about 3D again of late, partly because movie studios are trying their damnedest to phase 2D out as much as possible for their big 3D releases. Artificially inflating numbers by removing choice is something I’m likely to talk about again if EA keep trying to big up the Origin service, but this is about 3D. It justifies the expense if they can get more to see it in 3D at a theater or cinema, even if they have to force the 2D option out.
The thing is, I have no qualms about 3D. I have a 3DS and I do, at times, turn the 3D on. It’s not that 3D is an expensive luxury – I am a gamer, a gaming critic and a writer, and my whole life revolves around arguably expensive luxuries like books, games and hardware. Me criticising 3D for being too expensive is like Paris Hilton criticising someone in the Sudan for not eating enough – hypocrisy may be the in thing right now, but it still never looks good.
The thing is, current 3D – Stereoscopic 3D – can never be the future. And the reason for this is simply that nature and fate have made it so.
By this, I mean there is a healthy percentage of the human race and populations of the US, UK, Japan etc. that cannot see in 3D – they have what is known as Stereo Blindness. Stereo Blindness can be caused by many things – sometimes it can be corrected by laser surgery, but there are equally many out there who will never see in 3D – they may have a certain range of colour blindness, or they may have a genetic focusing disorder, or they may be blind in one eye completely. These people cannot “fix” themselves to see in Stereo 3D. They will never see it. They didn’t ask for it, or want it, but they have it.
Now, if this was a .001 of a percentage, you’d think that was okay but nothing major. But Stereo Blindness affects one in seven people – be it mild, moderate or severe – and that is a huge number of potential people who simply cannot appreciate or enjoy the marvel of Stereo 3D. It’s a margin for error that is simply gigantic in terms of technological advancement, and one that Stereo 3D is sadly going to find insurmountable in the end.
In a way, technology is all about advancement and of course, when confronted with an issue like this, the traditional ideal would be to engineer your way around the problem – and it is a problem – so that the margin for error is reduced somewhat. Finding new ways to employ a 3D effect into an image that can be seen by more people is something that I am sure people are working on, but the issue at hand is the current 3D push has been so expensive and both cinemas and studios have invested to heavily in this arguably flawed technology that there is no going back for the moment. They are halfway across the Atlantic and they have to keep on rowing, regardless of the fact they’re out of food, fresh water and that a storm is brewing. The money has been spent, and they have to try to get it back – even though there is this huge issue at hand with Stereo Blindness being actually more prevalent than was originally thought.
In this, Stereoscopic 3D has nowhere to go. No compass, no map, no direction – just more of the same. A technology so divisive in nature cannot be the future in and of itself – it may be the basis for future technologies to blossom from it, but it is ultimately a dead-end for the moment that will, like we’ve seen the last couple of years, see people shun 3D for the flat 2D versions. This is why the industry wants and needs to reduce the amount of 2D showings – it’s embarrassing that the very thing they hailed as the future is, truthfully, nothing more than an annoying distraction and at worst, impossible to view for so many people.
Technology has to embrace all, to become truly mass-market is has to embrace all eventualities. This was arguably the key point Nintendo made for itself for so many years – it was embracing everyone, not just the loud FPS crowd, and it saw them succeed in a way that their rivals simply could only helplessly watch over. It’s why I believe Kinect has no future, as much as I believe the Wii Remote eventually will wither and fall as well. To succeed, novelty only works for so long – after that, it needs to be versatile and usable by everyone, not just a portion of people. Progress is built on breaking down problems and making things better for everyone, overcoming the inherent challenges of the moment and making day to day life easier and more bearable, and making sure our special occasions go off without a hitch. Despite the fact we’ve had five years or so now of promises and claims, Stereo 3D is still not moving forward or trying to overcome these issues. It’s stuck. It’s gone as far as it can do in its current guise – the future, unfortunately, will be different.
Stereo Blindness has rendered Stereo 3D a completely pointless object. One in seven – this means someone you likely know has it. And it’s often not something they can fix – it’s an entirely natural issue for some, and for others it’s down to a cruel twist of fate. Stereo 3D is a needlessly divisive technology – and an expensive one at that – that is failing not just because of the extra costs involved, or that people are bored of it, Part of the reason is that so many will NEVER see it. They don’t go see movies anymore, or only if they can find 2D showings.
This is still a large chunk of the market, and any market and/or technology that continues to neglect and alienate such a big chunk of market share can only be doomed to failure. You can’t blame people for nature or fate dealing them a poor deck in the eye department – and continuing to neglect this audience in favour of pushing a technology they can’t enjoy will only serve to frustrate, annoy and drive consumers away from your other products in the future.
This is why 3D is not the future. Because to so many people, it’s not the future. It can never be the future. And unless 3D finds a way to navigate its way and engineer a new method of displaying 3D that can be enjoyed by more people, it simply has no future. The market that can’t see 3D is large. They will have to be accommodated, and as it turns out, 2D is cheaper than 3D – Whodathunkit?
It’s more cost effective to stay in 2D right now for games and movies. And equally, it can be seen and enjoyed by EVERYONE. No complaints, no extra technology needed, no new investment required, no new tools needed. Can we say we want to see Assassin’s Creed 3 or Watch Dogs in 3D? Do we really think it will add anything above and beyond the already stellar technical achievements that they are? And is it worth the expense, when we know that many will simply have no choice but to turn any 3D effects off?
The future is flat. Argue away all you want – unless you can find a new way to see and view 3D, or find a magical cure for stereo blindness (in some cases, this will mean bionic eyes!), we’re stuck enjoying 2D images for the forseeable future.
And considering what we’re seeing from the Wii-U and what is happening on PS3 and 360 with The Last of Us and Halo 4, I don’t think 3D is really that big of a loss.