Naked-eye 3D TV that works!

3D TV was huge at NAB 2011 - in hype and flop. But NAB 2012 delivered the goods: watchable glasses-free 3D on big, colorful and very watchable screens.

3D has been a gimmick for years in comics, movies, postcards and, now, flatscreen displays. I first saw liquid crystal shutter (active glasses today) 3D in the mid-80s as a proof of concept than a workable product.

And that's where 3D has stayed until Avatar. Even after that I've remained skeptical that 3D would have a mass market.

2 demos But that opinion changed at NAB 2012.

First up was the 200 inch 3D display from Japan's NICT (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology). The still images had an excellent 3D "pop" that showed what the system could do.

Make no mistake, this was clearly a prototype, not a product.

There was visible banding on the screen, probably due to poor calibration of some of the 64 rear projectors that produce the 3d images. And there weren't any moving images either, but a spokesman said they expected to show those next year.

As an advertising display it will have few equals once the bugs are worked out. And there don't seem to be any major issues keeping the technology from scaling to much larger and engrossing sizes.

Even more impressive was the Dolby Labs and Phillips demo of Dolby 3D. Embodied in a 4k 54 inch display, the demo delivered bright, clear and detailed moving images. Very watchable!

The 3d effect wasn't as pronounced as in the NICT demo, but that may not be a bad thing. After all, 3D isn't the first thing we perceive when we walk into a room, and it shouldn't be the first thing we see on a home display either.

The Storage Bits take Though much work remains to be done to make home 3D displays an affordable and compelling reality, these demos opened my eyes - and mind - to the potential of naked eye 3D.

One of the chief obstacles to consumer adoption will be the availability of 3D programming. Sports is an obvious target, as are effects-heavy Hollywood blockbusters and nature documentaries. Character-driven dramas - where our involvement is with the story, not the set - won't have much use for 3D, just as they haven't benefited by Blu-ray's crisper picture.

The potential infrastructure impact is clearer. If 4k displays become the 3D standard, that octuples (4x pixels x 2) the bandwidth and storage required for programs.

You won't be streaming 3D from Netflix over America's decrepit networks any time soon. But it might give next-gen Blu-ray a much-needed shot in the arm.

Comments welcome, of course. I'd love to see Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams documentary in 3D at home.