Live from CES: Fear and Loathing (Of Giant 3D Fish) in Las Vegas

The Consumer Electronics Show – the ginormous CE tradeshow held in the desert every January – is really hard on the feet. So when I spied some comfy looking couches in the Sony booth, I decided to take a load off.

Sony is one of the biggest exhibitors at the show, and since one of the biggest stories at CES this year is 3DTV, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the by the number, diversity and size of the 3DTV models on display. But I was. It was staggering. Sony – along with Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Toshiba and many others – really want the public excited about 3D technology. And at CES, they’re willing to do some pretty wacky stuff to get your attention. Which brings me back to the comfy couch.

As I enjoyed a few needed minutes of recovery, I was handed a pair of 3D glasses and told the Sony “show” would begin shortly. Out walks someone (could it be Howard Stringer?) in a NASA-like spacesuit. He takes position behind a DJ booth, and music – pulsating and loud but soothing enough to be used in a car commercial – begins to play. Then, on a screen that is 200 feet wide, I was absolutely bombarded with 3D images: giant blue fish, huge floating Japanese teen pop stars, rocketing jet fighters, and the women’s Slovakian volleyball team. Seriously. I sat there thinking, ‘who wouldn’t want this experience in their living room?’

The problem is – right now, people don’t. And we’re not surprised and attribute some of this lack of urgency to those darn 3D glasses. While online shopper interest in the 3DTV category increased ten-fold in 2010 (see below), interest in 3D glasses is dramatically lower. At, for example, the number of unique visitors researching 3D glasses was less than one tenth the number researching 3DTVs.

Exhibit 1: 3DTV Online Interest Growing

So if giant fish and volleyball can’t convince you to buy a 3DTV, what will? After talking with some of the biggest 3DTV OEMs yesterday, it looks like two of the most compelling factors will be gaming and home video. The gaming companies at CES are showing a wide range of highly immersive game concepts, and in time 3D polarized glasses may be viewed as a required gaming accessory. Home video is trickier – a poorly shot home video isn’t going to look any better in 3D – but user-generated video is a great way to address ongoing concerns about limited 3D content. There are hundreds of 3D video cameras on display at CES, at varying price points, so the message to consumers seems to be: get out there and start filming. I better grab my spacesuit.

About Christopher Collins:
Chris Collins leads the Technology & Entertainment Practice for Millward Brown Digital. In this role, Chris provides data-driven insights and strategic guidance to leading retailers, telecommunications carriers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and their marketing partners. Prior to Compete, Chris was a senior member of the Consumer Wireless team at Yankee Group Research and worked as a management consultant for Monitor Group and IBM Business Services. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.