World Cup 2010 was already a brave new world with the tournament heading to Africa for the first time, but now the tournament will be breaking technology barriers as well. Yesterday ESPN announced that it will launch the television industry's first 3D network, ESPN 3D, in conjunction with the World Cup curtain raiser between Mexico and host South Africa. Up to 25 World Cup games will be broadcast in 3D.
So besides Cuauhtémoc Blanco becoming the first athlete to fake an injury in 3D, what can we expect from the World Cup? Those who got a sneak peak when ESPN 3D was tested during the USC-Ohio State college football game raved about the technology. But the equipment won't be commonplace by June. Do you remember watching the Rams and Titans play the first Super Bowl broadcast in HD ten years ago? Me neither. As was the case with the transition to HD, viewers will need a new TV set and a cable provider that carries the network. And as for glasses, you'll need to wear them with the current sets. So check your vanity at the door; we're all gonna look like dorks.
Beyond the World Cup, ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer told me that additional events will be announced in the coming months. Whether that means ESPN's coverage of the Premier League will be broadcast in 3D remains to be seen. And while the technology could revolutionize watching sports, some images in 3D may be frightening to young viewers. Can you imagine Didier Drogba's meltdown from last year's Champions League semifinal coming right into your living room? Yikes!