After decades of being a gimmick confined to midnight movies, 3D has finally hit the big time, with a slew of 3D-enhanced films streaming out of Hollywood. And it's not just an IMAX theatre spectacle; it's coming to living rooms and computer displays near you.

That is, provided you can afford it. 3D video at its most sophisticated requires hardware that many people don't already have: 3D-capable TVs and the electronic glasses used with them.

3D capacity on a new high-end TV may not add that much to the base price - figure on at least £1,500 for a 46in TV - but the glasses alone can run as much as £100 per pair.

Add it up for a family of four, and you're probably spending nearly £2,000.

Getting 3D capabilities on a PC is also expensive. For example, a pair of Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses are £150, but that's only part of the cost. You also need a display that can handle 3D, which generally costs around £200 to £300 for a 22in or 23in display, and your PC must have a compatible Nvidia graphics card and be running Windows 7 or Vista.

LG and other companies are planning TVs that use the type of polarised 3D seen in movie theatres, which would allow the use of glasses that cost only a few dollars - but the sets themselves could cost anywhere from £300 upwards.

So although 3D in the home has indeed become viable, it needs to be made into more than just a gimmick to justify its premium cost.

NEXT PAGE: The history of 3D

  1. Introduction
  2. The history of 3D
  3. A new technology emerges
  4. 3D: Who needs it?
  5. Gaming
  6. Conclusions