IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - March 2017 - 82

stead, the user must take a spe-
cific position, centrally in front
of the display. The two most
common autostereoscopic tech-
nologies are parallax barriers
and lenticular lenses.
4) Color-based anaglyphs - the
simplest solution. These do not
require any special equipment
except colored glasses (among
many standards, red-cyan is the
most popular). However, with
this method, representation of
colors is very limited.
5) Head-mounted displays, where
the user wears a device with two
small displays, one for each eye,
and magnifying lenses. Good
quality head-mounted displays
are rather expensive, especially
considering that each user needs
a separate device.

100
75
50
25
1 Jan. 2007

1 Dec. 2009

1 Nov. 2012

1 Oct. 2015

1 Nov. 2012

1 Oct. 2015

(a)
100
75
50
25
1 Jan. 2007

1 Dec. 2009
(b)

Figure 1. Popularity of the search terms (a) "stereoscopy" and (b) "3D television"

between January 2007 and October 2016, based on Google Trends (https://www
.google.com/trends, accessed 29.10.2016).
seemed to have finished. But con-
sumer interest in 3D disappeared as
quickly as it emerged, aligning with
the popularity of the Internet search
term stereoscopy, which has fallen
more than threefold since 2011, and
for the phrase 3D television, where
there was a tenfold fall (Fig. 1).
In this article we look for the
main reasons for the rapid collapse
of this emerging technology that
seemed to offer such promise. The
collapse was unforeseen, even by
large and experienced manufac-
turers who invested heavily in the
new technology. We try to answer
the question of whether stereoscopy
is not yet mature enough to meet
users' needs and will come back
with more success in the future,
or whether consumers are in fact
satisfied with 2D images and any
future 3D technology will only be a
passing fashion.

Technologies
Let us recap briefly the most com-
mon stereoscopic technologies that
were available when the market for
such devices started to grow around
2010. In fact all these technologies
had been known for decades, but

82

this was the first time they were in
common use:
1) Passive display, based on polar-
ized light, where consecutive
lines of the screen emit light with
different polarization. Inexpen-
sive binoculars are a pair of
polarizing filters, which allow
each eye to observe every second
line. A disadvantage is a reduc-
tion of vertical resolution by
half.2 Passive display can be
ba sed on circula r or linea r
polarization, depending on the
standard.
2) Active display, based on an active
shutter, where images for the
right and for the left eye are pre-
sented consecutively. Glasses
utilizing this method are more
expensive and heavier than
those used in the passive system,
and they include a battery to
operate active shutters synchro-
nized with the display.
3) Autostereoscopic display, which
does not require glasses. In -

Reasons for Collapse
Our discussion is related to appli-
cations in home entertainment,
which is mostly based on technolo-
gies 1)-3). Here we try to answer
the question of why the market for
stereoscopic devices such as 3D TV
sets, 3D laptops, and 3D computer
screens shrunk rapidly after a short
time of dynamic growth.

Inconvenience and Health Issues
Watching in 3D is never as conve-
nient as in 2D. To watch in 3D, it is
necessary to put on special glasses,
and to charge the battery or use a
cumbersome cord if they are active.
Autostereoscopic devices, where a
user must occupy a specific position,
are even less convenient, especially
if several people would like to watch
the same material. Wearing special
glasses is not a big issue in the cine-
ma, and maybe this is why 3D cinema
has not lost so much popularity, but
glasses are hard to accept at home,
where watching television is often
one of several simultaneous activi-
ties. Moreover, users must keep their

2
Some people argue that effective resolution
is not reduced because the brain is able to
combine both images. However, if we look at a
2D image displayed on 3D screen through polar-
izing glasses, we can see that the image quality
decreases considerably.

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

∕

march 2017


https://www http://www.google.com/trends

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