3-D Coming Soon To A TV Near You

Between Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, there's no doubt that 3-D movies have brought people back to the theaters. Both films have made an astounding amount of money at the box office, and TV-makers are taking note. But will people want to wear those glasses on the couch? Guest host Audie Cornish talks to David Wertheimer, head of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California, about the future of 3-D television.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

Between "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland," there's no doubt that 3-D movies have brought people back to the theaters. Both films have made an astounding amount of money at the box office, and TV makers are taking note. Companies like Sony, Samsung and now Panasonic have all jumped into the 3-D television market, but some big questions remain. Such as: will people want to wear those glasses on the couch? And what will be on to watch, baseball games, concerts, cooking shows in 3-D?

David Wertheimer is the head of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California. He joins us now. David, welcome.

Mr. DAVID WERTHEIMER (Entertainment Technology Center, University of Southern California): Thank you, Audie. It's a pleasure to be here.

CORNISH: So, just to be clear, what does this entail? For instance, are you going to have to wear those special glasses at home on your couch? Because they're actually pretty expensive. I mean, I've seen them cost more than $100 for a pair.

Mr. WERTHEIMER: In the short term, people will be wearing glasses just like they do in the movie theaters. But there are different kinds of technologies that are going to be rolled out in televisions. The first technology that you'll see, the ones that are rolling out now from Samsung and Panasonic and LG and others are active shutter glasses. And those have little electronics in the glasses that open and close - right eye, left eye, right eye, left eye - in synchronization with the screen.

So, when you buy a television this year from any of those manufacturers or Sony, you're going to be using those kinds of glasses. And the glasses for active shutter glasses are reasonably expensive to start out. But as volume shipments go up, those prices, obviously, will come down just like everything else.

CORNISH: Now, I'm going to be honest with you, I haven't bought an HDTV and frankly, I don't even have a flat-screen TV. But is this just a way to get people like me to go out and upgrade our television?

Mr. WERTHEIMER: I think people are upgrading to HDTVs in massive numbers already. I mean, almost 60 percent of America owns a flat-screen HD television. So, that's happening on its own accord. I think 3-D television moving into the home is really being driven by the success in the box office and the interest in the technology by consumers.

CORNISH: Do you have one?

Mr. WERTHEIMER: I have many of them.

CORNISH: 3-D TVs?

Mr. WERTHEIMER: Yeah. We...

CORNISH: What are you watching?

Mr. WERTHEIMER: Well, we're in the lucky position of having relationships with all the motion picture studios, so we get a lot of content to watch in 3-D.

CORNISH: Yeah, that's not fair.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: But it's good to know you've seen the future and there are still many, many, many channels to watch.

Mr. WERTHEIMER: Yeah. I think 3-D is a really compelling experience in the theaters and it's equally as compelling in the home and compelling in different kinds of ways. So, I think that, you know, there will be certain kinds of content that people will really want to view in 3-D and it will make certain kinds of sporting events much more interesting because it will put the viewer on the field or on the court, as the case may be.

So, I think those kinds of experiences are going to help drive people to 3-D in the same way that when people saw the early content from Discovery Channel, for example, they got excited about HDTV because they could see the resolution and how great the imagery looked on the screens.

CORNISH: David Wertheimer is head of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California. David, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. WERTHEIMER: Audie, it was a pleasure. Thanks so much.

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