Who invented the 3D TV? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Remember the first time you saw a 3D movie and wore 3D glasses inside the cinema? The 3D experience must have been unforgettable. While 3D cinemas are still available these days, it’s unfortunate that new models of 3D TV sets are no longer heard of. However, that doesn’t mean that 3D TVs are forgotten.

The invention of 3D TVs led to the development of higher-end television technologies today. Technology keeps advancing. While it’s unfortunate to see manufacturers give up on technologies that people enjoyed before, this has given way to the advancement of newer technologies based on brilliant past inventions. Let’s look back at the history of 3D TV.

Who invented the 3D TV?

John Logie Baird is a Scottish electrical engineer and inventor who demonstrated the first stereoscopic 3D television. He is among the list of 10 greatest Scottish scientists in history, which is seen In the Scottish Science Hall of Fame in the National Library of Scotland

3D TV key contributors

  • Sir Charles Wheatstone
    The person who invented the stereoscope

    The idea of 3D TV comes from his discovery that when two images are simultaneously viewed stereoscopically, the brain combines them to form 3D depth perception.

  • Louis Jules Duboscq
    The one who improved the stereoscope

    His improved version of the stereoscope was displayed at the Great Exhibition displaying the famous picture of Queen Victoria.

  • Coleman Sellers
    An American engineer who invented the kinetoscope

    His invention resembles a TV. But, instead of showing pictures on a screen, the images are visible within a cabinet. Kinetoscope utilizes light to show a strip of perforated film with sequential images on a high-speed shutter.

  • William Edward Green
    A pioneer of motion pictures

    An English inventor and photographer who filed a patent for a 3D filming process.

  • John Logie Baird
    Scottish inventor of first 3D TV

    A Scottish inventor who demonstrated the first purely electronic color television.

When was 3D TV invented?

On January 26, 1926, the first demonstration of 3D TV was made by John Logie Baird. The Baird Television Development Company then attained the first transmission of transatlantic television in 1928.

A brief history of 3D TVs

Charles Wheatstone invented the first-ever stereoscope. He was an English inventor and scientist who achieved several scientific breakthroughs during the Victorian era. The first stereoscope was constructed for him by R. Murray in 1832. It was only on June 21, 1838, when he presented his invention to the Royal College of London.

The technology behind 3D TVs is called stereoscopic imaging or stereoscopy. A lens-based version of this technology was invented by David Brewster, which gave birth to photography. Brewster was a British inventor, scientist, academic administrator, and author. He was famous for his discovery of Brewster’s angle and his work in physical optics, particularly his study of polarization of light.

Later on, Brewster brought his design to Louis Jules Duboscq. He was a French instrument maker who made stereoscopic daguerreotypes and stereoscopes. He also took the famous picture of Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Almost overnight, the craze for stereoscopic cameras started that caused a large number of stereoviews, stereo pairs or stereographs, and stereo cards that were quickly sold.

The invention was commonly used during World War II and was improved afterward. Coleman Sellers then came up with an invention that resembles a television called Kinematoscope. But, instead of displaying pictures on a screen, you can see the images in a cabinet. By using a light source,  the kinematoscope shows moving images when sequential images from strips of perforated film are reflected on a high-speed shutter.

The next phase of its development was in the late 1890s when William Edward Green filed a request to patent the filming process of 3D movies. From 1888 to 1891, Green developed a series of cameras and used them to capture moving pictures in London. It made a huge impact in the world of cinematography.

At Astor Theater in New York City, William E. Waddel and Edwin S. Porter presented the first-ever movie that utilized anaglyph technology on June 10, 1915. They viewed the film using 3D TV glasses with two different colored lenses. The first 3D movie made available to the public was released in 1922, entitled, “The Power of Love.”

3D TVs didn’t rise in popularity until the popular trade show,  CES 2010. During the show, major electronics manufacturers announced their full 3D television lineups. People were particularly interested in 3D TVs during that time due to the success of James Cameron’s 3D movie “Avatar”.

3D TV timeline

  1. 1838
    Stereoscope was invented

    The idea of 3D TV came from Sir Charles Wheatstone’s discovery of 3D depth perception.

  2. 1851
    Lens-based stereoscope

    Louis Jules Duboscq invented the lens-based version of the stereoscope. It was displayed at the Great Exhibition displaying the famous picture of Queen Victoria.

  3. 1855
    Kinematoscope was invented

    Coleman Sellers invented the Kinematoscope, which resembled a TV. Instead of showing pictures onto a screen like a stereoscope, the images were visible within a cabinet.

  4. 1890
    A pioneer of motion pictures

    William Edward Green, an English inventor and photographer, filed a patent for the filming process of 3D movies.

  5. 1958
    The first color television system or 3D TV was invented

    The first purely electronic color television or 3D TV was demonstrated by John Logie Baird.

Where was 3D TV invented?

The first 3D TV was shown to the public on the company premises of its inventor John Logie Baird in 133 Long Acre, London. It was the very first purely electronic color TV demonstrated at that time.

Why are 3D TVs important?

  • A crucial step toward progress

    The invention of 3D TV inspired the development of 3D movies, 3D channels, other 3D contents, and other 3D devices like head-mounted displays.

  • A new dimension for entertainment

    Thanks to the development of 3D media, people experienced a transition from flat picture home entertainment into a realistic, three-dimensional portal.

  • A whole new level of entertainment and movie experience

    The development of more advanced 3D media, 3D screening technology, and 3D video imaging gave birth to 3D entertainment. The movie Avatar by James Cameron made the biggest impact in 3D entertainment.

3D TV by the numbers

  • 1981Matsushita Electric, now called Panasonic, unveiled a three-dimensional TV that uses an active shutter 3D system.
  • 2010Major electronics manufacturers began selling their lineup of 3D televisions as 3D technology became popular due to the success of James Cameron’s Avatar.
  • 41.45 millionIn 2012, 3D TV shipments skyrocketed to 41.45 million units, according to DisplaySearch. It was higher than 2011, which was only 24.14 and 2.26 in 2010.
  • 2013Later in 2013, people viewing 3D TVs started to decline. Only 23% of TV purchases in the U.S. made 3D TVs. In 2016, it further dropped to 8%.
  • 2016Manufacturers gradually stopped producing new models of 3D televisions until it ended in 2016. 

Five facts about the 3D TV

  • It isn’t just for 3D

    3D television sets are not only limited to viewing 3D content. It can also work as a standard TV for viewing regular programs and automatically switches to 3D mode once 3D content is detected.

  • LCD shutter glasses are a must

    Viewing on 3D TVs requires you to wear high-tech active LCD shutter glasses. You can even wear them while wearing regular specs.

  • Some 3D TVs don’t include glasses

    Not all 3D TV sets include glasses. Some manufacturers sell them separately, which is considered an additional cost.

  • 3D movies on Blu-ray discs

    At first, you could only watch 3D movies on Blu-ray discs. TV channels providing 3D content came by later on.

  • Sitting closely to the screen

    The 3D effect is stronger for a person sitting closer to the TV screen. So, it’s best to sit within the recommended distance for 3D TVs to avoid tiring your eyes, which could cause headaches.

FAQ about the 3D TV

  • Is it true that 3D TVs can cause headaches?

    No, 3D TV itself is not the cause of the headache but eye strain that is caused by badly produced 3D content. People who experience headaches while viewing a 3D TV usually watch for an extended time.

  • Can everyone see 3D?

    No. According to research, 5% to 10% of Americans have stereo blindness. People who have this health condition can’t perceive a 3D video presentation’s depth dimension. So, they only see 2D while wearing glasses.

  • What makes active and passive 3D different?

    Active liquid crystal shutter glasses block each eye usually 120 times every second, separating the different images on the left and right to create a 3D effect. Meanwhile, passive polarized 3D glasses utilize Film Pattern Retarder technology from LG, where the 3D TV screen is covered by polarizing film coating, allowing each eye to see every other line. These glasses are much cheaper than active 3D glasses.

  • Can the 3D feature on a 3D TV be turned off?

    Yes, you can.  You can view 2D content with a 3D TV without a problem. You don’t also have to wear glasses to view 2D content. 

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