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Ever since man discovered the earth was not flat, we have been trying to experience the wonders of our planet through 3D television. Okay, so maybe there were a couple of steps in between.

Art gave way to photos, which evolved into moving pictures -- movies. Then in the late-1890s, British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D movie process. And transportation to the third dimension was on.

Today, 3D movies account for about one third of box office sales, and an increasing number of people are incorporating this 3D technology into their home entertainment systems.

Techies agree; 3D TV is the way of the future.

Just because you aren't a modern machinery maven doesn't mean you can't embrace this temptingly tangible technology with open arms and battery-operated glasses.

Let's break it down like a stereoscopic camera.

Why 3D, why now?

Taking the plunge with a new form of technology can be intimidating; especially if you don't know what exactly you are getting yourself into.

With movies, television and video games becoming increasingly available in 3D, purchasing a system that is not 3D capable might seem a bit stagnant. Then again, the technology -- while no longer in its infancy -- is still on the youthful side of its mainstream manifestation.

Charlie Sinclair, owner of Wavecrest Home Theater is familiar with hesitation to update while anticipating the next great innovation. "You can wait and wait and wait for technology to improve and price to go down," Sinclair said. "At some point you just have to take the leap."

Unlike other technologies, acquiring 3D capabilities allows you to outfit your media for the future -- even if 3D is not something you feel strongly about right now.

"The extra amount that you'd pay for 3D capabilities is only 15 to 20 percent more," Sinclair pointed out. But that marginal increment is all it takes to infuse years of technological longevity into your next TV purchase.

Performance anxiety

Most of us have experienced 3D on the big screen. It is both a thrill and a game changer that begs the question, why bother revisiting the same film again in 2D?

Replicating that 3D adventure at home feels more important than ever. But for many, the question of whether or not their home theater will be anywhere near as exhilarating as the big screen remains a serious concern.

According to Vann's product specialist, Montana Cole, anxiety about how a 3D TV will function at home is common among first time buyers. "3D has changed a lot over the last few years," Cole said. "The 3D technology you find in a home theater today is actually better performing than what you see at the movies. The image is sharper and holds more depth."

Then again, 3D viewing is much more intense -- both literally and physically.

Though studies are not yet conclusive, battery-powered active shutter 3D glasses, which send a timed signal to alternately darken over one eye and then the other in synch with the refresh rate of the screen, are believed to cause more strain than passive glasses, like the kind you receive at the movie theater.

"Kids who are under 10 have eye muscles that are still developing," Sinclair noted. "Watching hours upon hours of 3D programming might have a detrimental effect on the way their eyes are learning to fuse. Keeping a limit on 3D TV time is crucial."

The good news is that all 3D TVs can be viewed in 2D as well.

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"A common misconception is that once you go into the third dimension you can never return," Cole said. "In actuality, all 3D televisions are top-of-the-line HDTVs that have the capability of displaying three-dimensional images.

"If you have a 3D TV you can go to a 3D channel and switch it back to 2D if you want, but if you don't have the capability of receiving 3D channels, they will not come through at all," Cole clarified. The versatility of 3D makes it a great choice, regardless of your preference de jour.

To infinity and beyond

So you want to see the world through liquid crystal shutter glasses. How do you make this dream a reality?

Sinclair explained that there are several necessary components. "You will need a source: either a satellite receiver or a 3D-ready disc player-proper cables, a monitor or projector that is 3D-capable and the glasses."

The next step is selecting the equipment that is right for you.

Though many people begin this search by reading product reviews and investigating articles online, Cole strongly recommends going into a showroom and drawing your own conclusions.

"The web is a powerful resource for knowledge, but you should trust your own eyes and ears," said Cole. "Are you looking to replicate a movie theater environment? Will you be watching your TV in a well-lit room? Will there be background noise? We could argue all day about what TV is best, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference."

Finally, you must install your new system. "TVs today are light as a feather, and many people assume that self-installation is simple to execute," said Cole. In reality, perfect -- and in most cases professional -- installation is paramount in order to receive the automatic Internet updates necessary to keep your system up-to-date.

According to Sinclair, "The level of performance is related to the quality of the equipment, calibration and installation." If your system is installed correctly, it will incorporate new technological developments that will allow your viewing experience to remain on the cutting edge.

Though your system may not be the latest model, you will still be hooked up to the future-and whatever new dimensions should unfold.

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