The 3-D TV Market is Set to Explode. But Why?

The 3-D TV market sounds like it's about to explode. I don't completely understand why.

Don't get me wrong: I love television, I love all three dimensions, and together I'm sure they could make something just splendid. But why would I buy a 3-D television today, when prices are high (as they always are for first-time technologies without widespread competition) and precious few networks are offering 3-D content? We are essentially talking about an expensive normal television (all of Samsung's 3-D TVs are 2-D compatible) that can play 3-D editions of a handful of movies, if you're willing to don the goggles. What's the rush to buy these products right now?

Don't get me wrong, just about any innovation is good innovation, and I'm pleased to see hardware designers aiming high. Panasonic announced that it expects to unload 500,000 3-D TVs in the United States in the first year, "half its annual global sales target," according to Reuters.

I'm holding out for something better: 3-D without the glasses.

Philips' WOWvx technology uses image-processing software, plus display hardware that includes sheets of tiny lenses atop LCD screens. The lenses project slightly different images to viewers' left and right eyes, which the brain translates into a perception of depth...

The multiple images allow viewers to walk around the viewing area--a cone about 20 degrees wide--without disturbing the 3-D illusion.

The challenge will be to design a television that bursts with three dimensions for the lucky few in the "viewing cone" and also operates as a perfectly functional 2-D television for viewers outside the cone.

When I first heard about this technology, I asked this question: if you can design a TV set that projects slightly different images, could you somehow have a single television set tuned to two different channels? In other words (and maybe this would require the glasses, again) could I watch a football game without sound on my 3-D TV while my friend to the right watches Jersey Shore on the same set, with volume? Open question to techies out there.