Dolby Laboratories is betting consumers are sick of using the shoddily manufactured glasses distributed by theaters for 3D films, which look and feel like a pair of sunglasses you’d expect on a clearance rack at a highway convenience store. But until now, the only alternative has been to purchase a personal set compatible with that theater’s projector.
Dolby’s newly announced next generation 3D glasses feature 3M’s new multilayer optical film lenses and are designed to be more form fitting to a person’s face. They are scratch resistant, have anti-glare coating and most importantly, have been produced specifically with the cinema exhibitor in mind — meaning they want theaters to use these as the standard.
The reason theaters are still using crappy 3D glasses has to do entirely with cost. The lenses needed for Dolby Digital 3D projectors are expensive, as would be the cost of tracking high-end glasses. Therefore, material costs are kept low to allow for theaters to wash and reuse whatever survives after a film has been viewed by the audience.
Dolby’s new 3D glasses have a list price of $12, which I’m assuming is comparable to the costs of what’s currently being used by theaters. The glasses can be washed for reuse and also contain individually serialized RFID tags for tracking and management purposes.
The end result will hopefully be that theaters switch over to these new ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing 3D glasses, since they improve the quality of service without breaking the bank. The best case scenario for consumers is that ticket prices will stay the same, but judging from previous actions by theaters that’s highly unlikely.
Dolby has several motivations for putting this much effort into upgrading 3D glasses for theaters. The biggest reason is likely the growing level of consumer negativity towards 3D films and their desire to keep demand high for 3D projectors. However, Dolby doesn’t make any money off of cheap 3D glasses that are sold to theaters. If theirs were to become the new standard, that would certainly change.