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CES: Consumer Jury on 3DTV Still Out

3D might be all the rage in theaters this winter, thanks to mega-blockbuster "Avatar" which is being shown both in 3D and in IMAX 3D on thousands of screens globally, but its daily acceptance in some form of 3DTV in the typical living room remains an unknown factor — even as set makers in Las Vegas this week at the 2010 CES (Jan. 7-10) predict rapid consumer adoption of 3DTV sets as the next-big-thing-after-HD technology in the very near future.

Now on the eve of CES, no less than the household brand names of Sony, Samsung and Panasonic —along with relative upstart (and current American HD sales leader Vizio)— plan to show off their respective 3DTV prototypes.

The timing for manufacturers for this potential next major jump in "gotta-have" consumer technology is not coincidental: The allure of HD is fading fast as the higher plane of DTV becomes ubiquitous in North America, and while Blu-ray is beginning to take hold with consumers, it's likely not seen as an exciting new technology by manufacturers and, more importantly, consumers, as a year ago.

Still, 3DTV does not replace HD, per se, nor is it being marketed with that intent right now. "Their existing sets are not broken. [But] constant technological change over the years... has given consumers the reason to buy," Panasonic's Bob Perry told the Los Angeles Times.

And while one very public display of 3D recently fell flat on its multidimensional face on the world's largest HD screen in a controlled environment (or at least as "controlled" as tens of thousands of Dallas Cowboy fans can be) several weeks ago, the practical application of any format that (for now) relies on the use of special glasses will be seriously put to the test in the next couple of years.

As the L.A. Times points out, a bit tongue-in-cheek, "A typical living room may not feature thousands of inebriated fans [as in Dallas], but it has plenty of its own distractions: trips to the bathroom, restless children (who will need their own 3D glasses), ringing cell phones and the pizza guy at the door. Can 3D survive multitasking?"

CES is holding a session aimed at trying to separate the "hope" from the "hype" about 3DTV on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 7.

According to media analyst Richard Doherty of Envisioneering Group, "If any analyst tells you, 'Absolutely we know people are going to be taking this into their homes,' he would be lying. No one really knows that."