Can One-Eyed People Watch 3DTV?

The whole topic of 3DTV has been getting a lot of coverage lately (and I’m happy to see that my market research report for GigaOM Pro has been part of that). I have been on a lot of sites with discussions and comments on the topic, but one question in particular has stuck with me. One person added a comment to a 3DTV article, asking whether or not he’d be able to watch a 3DTV even though he only has sight in one eye.

The answer is a qualified “Yes”. 3DTV means a “stereoscopic” display, which in turn means that separate images are presented to the left and right eyes. If you are using active glasses — the kind with LCD shutters — you can wear the glasses and still view the image without a problem; if your left eye is your good one, you’ll still see the left eye image. Without your right eye, you can’t get the stereoscopic effect, but the remaining image will look normal. If the system uses passive glasses, only polarized lens systems will work, and you’ll have to wear the glasses. If the system uses “anaglyph” technology — the type with red and cyan color filters — you won’t get a good image because you’ll be looking through one or the other color filters. And if it is an autostereoscopic display — one that does not require glasses, you’ll be able to see a normal image with just one eye, though you’ll have to be viewing from the same position that you’d need to be in to get the stereoscopic effect.

The question makes me realize that we often get swept away by the intriguing possibilities of new technology without fully considering the possible repercussions for people who are challenged by restricted senses of one sort or another. The hybrid electric cars have been a problem for some blind pedestrians, as the cars don’t make as much noise as gasoline-powered models. Just remember that the law of unintended consequences is always lurking in the shadows, ready to bite you. Fortunately, it seems as though 3DTV is not likely to have problems in this area.