Geekier than thou
So, I wanted to watch 3D movies.
I wanted to watch 3D movies but I hate going to movie theaters.
It seems that every time I go to a movie theater, the fellow next to me needs to take a call on his cell phone. And I find the smell of movie theater junk food slightly nauseating. But it is more than that: the real problem is that the 3D image quality at movie theaters is lousy.
I’m a bit of a nut about stereoscopic images. I won’t bore you with all my stereoscopic craziness, but I once bought a ridiculously fancy View-Master Viewer so I could see View-Master reels in enlarged image quality. (Here is something that I learned after buying that expensive viewer: I wasted my money. Most View-Master reels suffer from defects that only become apparent when the images on the reel are magnified.)
A big problem is cross-talk – the polarized filters in movie theater 3D glasses are not perfect: each lens lets in some of the image that is meant for the other eye. As a result, there is a “ghosting” effect: one sees displaced images. Maybe this doesn’t matter for cartoonish 3D movies, but now there are actually good 3D movies coming out, from directors like Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog.
One solution would be to buy a 3D television, but those have problems too. They also suffer from ghosting, and active 3D glasses have numerous practical problems. A more serious issue is that to obtain a full 3D effect, one needs a large display. Unless one sits up close to a monitor, a screen only occupies a small field of view. This leads to some rather absurd recommendations, about minimizing distance from the screen. That’s not going to work for me.
I’m already living the Philip K. Dick life. I’ve got the communicator, the tablet computer, the everywhere Internet. All I need now is a deadly government conspiracy and an immersive 3D environment that lets me jack in and walk around. Oh, that’s here now too! At least the immersive 3D environment part. Sort of. Sony’s new HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer is a gleaming bit of headgear that lets you have your 3D and wear it too, you gigantic nerd.
The bottom line is that the picture on this Sony visor is supposed to be better than any other 3D movie viewing option. (Does that theory hold up in practice? Ask me after I have a bit more experience with the device.)
But I have to admit it, the thing is creepy, and not just because it looks so strange. (Thank goodness that by its very design, when one wears this headset, one cannot look in the mirror.) No, the problem is that it seems downright anti-social to wear one of these things.
I own a number of headphones, and they have always made me feel a bit strange. It is not so much that I’m bothered by the illusion of sound originating from inside my head (a bit of technology can solve that problem nicely) as it is that headphones appear to be the first step towards total alienation. One takes a social activity (e.g., listening to a concert) and makes it into a completely individual experience. Indeed, one measure of headphone specifications is called “isolation” and refers to the ability to cut off outside sound.
For human contact, it is a disaster. But perhaps the problem started when we moved from oral literature to written literature – whoever first wrote down those marvelous words of Homer was starting a trend of moving group-social contact to a world of private consumption of information. As an early adopter of a 3D helmet, I’m just following in the scribe’s footsteps. Or, umm, hat-brim.
Even Sony’s own commercial for the device makes it look awkward: