How 3-D TV Works

Don't let these kids fool you -- anaglyph 3D glasses don't give the best performance.  See movie making pictures to learn more.

Television, like most technology, has evolved since its debut. First, there was the switch from black and white to color TV. Then manufacturers began to offer televisions in larger formats using various projection methods. Over the last two decades, we've seen LCD and plasma technologies advance to the point where you can go out and buy a 61-inch (about 155 centimeters) television that's only a few centimeters thick. And high-definition television (HDTV) provides us with a picture that's so vibrant and sharp it's almost as if we weren't looking at a collection of pixels.

So what's next in television technology? Now that you can practically replace a wall with a screen and watch movies in high resolution, where do we go from here? The answer may end up right in front of your face -- or at least appear to be there, anyway. We're talking about 3-D television.

Audiences first got a glimpse at 3-D technology way back in 1922 with the release of "The Power of Love." Whether they thought it was a curious thing or not is lost to history. But that began the somewhat cyclical fascination with three-dimensional film.

The next big boom in 3-D happened in the 1950s. That era introduced the world to dozens of B movies that relied heavily on odd gimmicks. Movie producers wanted to find ways to lure audiences away from their television sets and into the theater. Their schemes ranged from installing vibrating plates in theater seats to simulate an electric shock to sliding an inflatable skeleton down a zip line during the film. In comparison, wearing a pair of goofy glasses was pretty tame.

Several television episodes and specials have appeared in 3-D. There's also a market for 3-D DVDs. For the most part, 3-D hasn't made a big impact on the home entertainment industry. But if some of the most popular exhibits at the 2009 Consumer Electronic Show are good indicators, we may soon be reaching out to try to touch the images on our televisions in the near future.

Let's learn more about how we perceive objects in three dimensions.