In the bars of the future, will we all be sharing beers around android tablets...bespectacled with 3D glasses...eating Dippin' Dots?
Santa Monica sports bar South and local electronics giant Vizio hope so (well, except for the Dippin' Dots). Thursday night, South premiered its all 3D TV upgrade to some epic fanfare, red carpet excitement, and all-TVs tuned to the Trojans abusing the Golden Bears. Clippers star Blake Griffin co-hosted the event and brought along Josh Duhamel and Kevin Love, among others, to see how the people of the future will be entertained by them.
There are other bars with a 3D TV or two and video gaming options, but at South that's the attraction. Vizio set them up with 33 passive 3D TVs that will all be controlled by Vizio tablets. Every patron will be lent a pair of passive 3D specs and no one will get headaches from them, like with the active, battery powered ones. The content itself looks spectacular, even on the smaller screens. I wonder what it looks like after a drink-sodden Sunday afternoon?
I caught up with one of South's co-owners, Chris Shanley, to figure out what the big deal was. Shanley, a Staten Island transplant, has been involved with South for about 4 years, and, like me, has had only limited experience with 3D TV. Shanley made sure we knew the bar was dedicated to putting out a quality product. I asked him what he'd seen so far. "Golf actually looks better, and soccer just looks absolutely incredible," he said. He showed me South's 3D game room - which features giant leather couches and a huge selection of games. He even found an Atari 2600 online, recently. "We can't figure out how to hook it up...the plugs are outdated," he says, "but maybe I'll just keep that at home."
What about that red carpet fanfare? It wasn't exactly the Oscars, and Tara Reid never showed, but William Wang, Vizio CEO and USC alum, got his due accolades walking past the throng of entertainment reporters. He, Griffin and the other celebs tried out the glasses, watched some football and tested out the game room. Love and Griffin even played a little NBA 2011, Timberwolves vs. Clippers, of course. Who knows when they'll actually get to do that again in real life?
Everything did look pretty spiffy and futuristic. But will South end up the Dippin' Dots of sportsbars (kind of the future...but not really)? I really think that all depends on content. The bar itself has all of its 3D ducks in a row and sports a killer menu and decent selection of suds, it just needs TV networks to step up their game. So far, only ESPN 3D has 24hr 3D content, with the rest scattered about the TV spectrum and time slots.
Shanley promised us that they'll have plenty of 3D themed special events to maximize the 3D content that already exists. "Oh yeah," he said, "we'll have all kinds of parties, gaming tournaments, and definitely some movie nights...the possibilities are endless." When asked what sports content they'd probably show a lot of, he said with a wink, "Probably lots of Yankees games." Shudder. He assured me that they'll still have a wide selection of sports and teams. "Don't worry, we'll have everything we can," he said, "we even have a dedicated Michigan football crew that comes in every Saturday."
All told, I seriously had my doubts about wearing 3D glasses for the duration of a bar visit, and some others did too, "What are they gonna pass out a shitload of disinfectant every day?" we overheard some slack-jawed yokel exclaim. But the glasses are pretty light and unobtrusive, even if they do make everyone look a little like circa 2002 Williamsburg hipsters. As 3D content steps up its game, I'm sure everyone will have their own pair -- to match their Hoverboards.