A colleague and I witnessed a fascinating example at lunchtime today of why LG’s strategic conversion to passive 3D is likely to gather momentum with retailers and across the industry. Demonstrating 3DTV in-store is never easy at the best of times. TVs need to be set up with appropriate demonstration material, glasses need to be available, and customers have to be persuaded to pick up those glasses and try out the demonstration.
LG appears to have done a deal with our local John Lewis department store, because the company’s two new passive 3D sets have been moved to a prominent position at the front of the AV department – a few weeks ago they were positioned in amongst the rows of regular TVs. Judging by our short time in the area, it seems to have worked because a couple of other customers also came along to try out the demo while we were there.
The first good news was that the store feels comfortable enough, given their low value, to leave several pairs of 3D glasses lying around, unsecured, next to the TVs. Customers do not therefore feel as inhibited in picking them up and trying them on as they do when they see glasses tied by a security wire to a specially designed point-of-sale unit.
However, the main problem then became apparent:– the two LG TVs (one 42”, one 47”) were positioned below standing eye level. LG’s Film-type Patterned Retarder (FPR) technology limits the 3D effect to same-height viewing. If you are standing with your eyes above or below the top or bottom of the display you will see not a 3D effect, but what will appear like ghosting with very little image depth. So to see the 3D image effectively in the store we had to crouch down. The transformation was dramatic: suddenly the quality of the 3D material became apparent across a variety of clips, including sports, movies and nature. I have seen enough 3D demonstrations to have become sceptical about many so-called improvements, but this was genuinely impressive. Inevitably the quality of content production had an impact on the 3D effect, but overall I was very pleasantly surprised. One or two other customers were watching the same demonstration and were also making encouraging comments.
We then tried a Sony 3D demonstration, which was parked in the regular line of TVs. Here we saw immediately the weakness of the active shutter approach: four pairs of glasses were available for the two TVs on display, but neither TV was set up to demonstrate 3D. I had to fiddle with the menu to get the set to convert 2D to 3D, and then it became clear that the glasses were simply not functioning. After an assistant finally came over to help us we established that only one of the four pairs of glasses had a working battery. By this time, even though the (2D converted) 3D demonstration was reasonably good, we both felt we would have long ago walked away as potential customers.
Finally an assistant helped us with a Samsung active shutter demonstration. Again, there was a considerable delay while the set was configured correctly and the glasses were found and prepared for use. The 3D experience again was of good quality, in my experience, although people perceive the impact of 3D differently according to the content itself. Nevertheless we again felt that the usability of the active shutter TV and glasses would be seen as a strong negative by many customers who had already experienced the LG approach.
So once John Lewis positions their LG TVs at correct viewing height, I think they will find they have hit on the ideal in-store 3DTV demonstration. I notice today that Cello Electronics, a UK TV manufacturer, has joined the FPR club and will launch budget-price passive 3DTVs this summer (42” retailing at £499). Sony, Samsung and Panasonic had better beware: active shutter’s days look like they are numbered and manufacturers which remain wedded to that technology could lose share rapidly if they don’t find an answer before long.
Client Reading: Cost Concern & Lack of Interest Main Barriers to 3D TV Adoption