Dark Doctrine: “The Black Hole of Calcutta”

Even for those of us who have no fear of flying, airline travel is its own special kind of hell. From cramped conditions and body odour, to screaming children and meals that qualify as a durable good, there’s little escape.

Some are lucky enough to have Net access, though even that is being curtailed due to pornography abuse – an American Airlines consumer survey (and a well-publicised inflight quickie that Ralph Fiennes had in 2007) have both been suggested in the media as being partly responsible for Qantas ditching internet access on its brand new A380s.

With no decent food and no bukkake before bed, most turn to the in-flight entertainment to escape. Now, a company called MasterImage 3D is reportedly close to securing deals with certain airlines and car manufacturers to put glasses-free 3D screens in their fleets.

MasterImage licenses its glasses-free ‘cell-matrix parallax barrier’ 3D technology to third parties which allowed for one of the world’s first glasses-free 3D mobile phones, the Hitashi Wooo. They now plan to expand not just to smartphones and tablets but into upgrading airline passenger screens and monitors in the back seats of luxury vehicles.

So does that mean we can add eye strain, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches and nausea to the long list of health issues such as indigestion, exhaustion and weakened immune systems that come with flying? Media reports claim that recently launched small consumer goods with glasses-free 3D screens have resulted in temporary eye-related problems and nausea in a sizeable number of users after only a few minutes use.

It seems pretty obvious that 3D technology – with or without glasses – is still a good few years away from delivering a truly comfortable and effective experience for all. Until that point is reached, is it wise to spend millions on adopting a technology that could be out of date in a few years?

Look at 3D TVs where Samsung and LG are in a war over active and passive shutter glasses, a format standard dispute that is already drawing parallels to the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD war of a few years ago. Consumers meanwhile are smartly avoiding the technology altogether – approximately 248 million televisions were sold worldwide last year, and only 3 million of those were 3D sets.

Maybe this MasterImage 3D have created tech that has finally solved the problems, I don’t know. If airlines do adopt 3D screens inflight, then the cost will no doubt trickle down to the consumer. If you had to pay an extra $50 or $100 on your ticket, wouldn’t you rather the airline used it toward something more practical like adding in more legroom, or allowing you to use your Netflix account inflight?

By adopting 3D screens, airlines take away arguably that last vessel of escape from the overcrowded and sometimes near claustrophobic conditions that come with a packed flight. Then again, it will at least add some true depth to old episodes of “Two and Half Men”.