When 3D TVs made their big push at CES back in 2011 I was among the skeptics. Lack of programming was a huge barrier of course, but mostly it was the glasses: not just too expensive, clunky, and unreliable (the active types at least), but for me there was something else: they were too flagrantly techy to gain mainstream appeal. I had the same reaction when I first saw Google Glass: I thought, techies may be driving the device revolution, but many have a distorted view of how much nerdy affectation most citizens will comfortably adopt. Beats and bracelets may fly, but I think society draws the line at tech covering our eyes – at least for now.
Industry-watchers have known for a while the name of the solution: autostereoscopy, a.k.a. glasses-free 3D. The technology works – for the most part it’s awesome, although there are still some viewing angle issues – but the main problem has been cost. This is now coming down into the range where, although still expensive for home and personal use, retail and other environmental applications are becoming more feasible. You may have seen the press release circulating about the “Fallingwater” Exhibit featuring Rembrandt 3D; these types of announcements are picking up frequency: Tianma NLT America recently added eye-tracking to its device to deal with viewing space issues, Zecotek Photonics is promoting its 3D breakthroughs, DDD Group allows even 2D tablets and smartphones to display in 3D on 3D TV devices, and a host of others featured solutions at the recent Augmented World Expo in SF.
Of course all of this begs the question, what’s in it for marketers? Well, as overused as it is, I can’t escape the word “engagement” here. When a message departs from the screen surface and fills the air in front of you, it engages a different part of your brain.
I was won over by a demo of SeeSpace InAir by co-founder Dale Herigstad, an Emmy-award winning TV interaction designer who’s been chasing such dreams for decades. InAir drove home the design possibilities inherent in adding a third dimension (along with simple gesture-based controls) to a display, to create layers of interactive content (delivered via the Web) that can completely change the way marketers and designers think – not just about display case merchandising, but about space in general. SeeSpace calls this “augmented TV” – and it works with any television, but 3D is better, and glasses-free TV is where it’s all headed.
So the next time you find yourself pouring over a spreadsheet or trying to make sense of a dashboard report, take a break and check out the future of marketing: it’s in the air. And it’s closer than you might think.