A Motley collection of monsters and villains will leap into living rooms from today as 3D TV sets go on sale, promising, it is claimed, a technological revolution every bit as dramatic as the introduction of colour television 40 years ago.
Samsung has won the race to sell the first 3D hardware on the high street, offering a 47-inch screen for £1,800 at flagship branches of John Lewis, though you will need special 3D glasses and a cable costing a further £200 to watch anything. Curry's and Comet will stock the Korean giant's UE40 C700 nationwide in the next week.
The set will screen normal television with a deeper picture and Blu-Ray discs, providing you have a player. Viewers will have to wait until June, when Sky launches its 3D channel, to watch bespoke broadcasts with a full three-dimensional effect.
A Dreamworks film, Monsters vs Aliens, will be loaded onto the sets in John Lewis. The campaign for 3D is the latest by consumer electronic makers' seemingly endless quest to persuade consumers to upgrade their televisions, following the introduction of wide-screen and high definition TV.
An independent media consultancy forecast the take up of 3D would be slower than for HDTV, which sharpened the quality of D images, but it is still expected to be a success. It is one of the biggest changes to home viewing since the end of black and white only broadcasts in 1967.
Although the first three-dimensional feature film, Man in the Dark, was screened as long ago as 1953, 3D has only taken off in the past year thanks to technical improvements, which have prompted Hollywood to film special versions of blockbusters such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland.
Three-dimension sets were introduced to Japan and the US at the start of 2010, since when makers have been competing to put them into Europe. Korea's LG and Japan's Panasonic will launch 3D TVs next month, followed by Sony in June.
"The result is truly remarkable," Samsung said. "It will feel like characters from Monsters vs Aliens are alive in your living room while Premiership matches will jump out of the television – as Wayne Rooney fires in the goals, you will see every angle as if you were sitting in the stadium, from the comfort of your own sofa."
This morning John Lewis Oxford Street and Peter Jones in central London will sell Samsung's UE40 C700 for £1,799, with necessary "accessories" – glasses and a cable – totalling £200. An optional 3D Blu-Ray player costs £349.
Viewers may have to wait for mainstream broadcasts; the BBC and ITV have not yet announced plans for 3D. Sky, which will show football, documentaries and films on its channel, began screening 3D Premiership matches in pubs in January. Although FIFA is filming some World Cup games in 3D, they will not include any England games until at least the quarter finals.
Media consultancy Screen Digest estimates Britons will buy 185,000 3D TV sets in the UK this year, with the number of sets rising to 7 million in 2015. Consultant Dan Simmons said investing £2,000 in a 3D TV set would probably be better than buying a £1,500 HD TV.
He said: "If you are a person who would buy a high end TV then definitely a 3DTV would be a good option, but if you are someone who spends a few hundred pounds on a TV then you are probably going to wait a couple of years until prices come down."