April 16, 2014, 6:33 AM —
I'm a fan on Nintendo's 3DS handheld gaming system. It's got great games, is comfortable to use, has that clamshell design that makes it easy to take with you without fear of damage; it's a great piece of kit.
The only place where I feel like Nintendo stumbled is right there in the name: 3D. The 3DS offers glasses-free 3D on one of its screens. It's a gimmick, and one that thankfully you can turn off. I turned it off long ago and haven't found a reason to turn it back on, and most of my friends have done the same. Not only is it no more than a gimmick, for at least some folks it's a literal headache inducer. When Nintendo introduced the cheaper Nintendo 2DS, they pretty much were admitting that the 3D screen doesn't add much to the 3DS.
But hey, 3D is still a thing right? We all ran right out and bought 3D televisions, didn't we? No? No, at least not many of us did. TV manufacturers couldn't convince many of us that we needed 3D in the home. So far it seems movie theaters are the only place where 3D has had any significant success.
But apparently Amazon thinks we want 3D screens on our phones. Yesterday Boy Genius Report leaked images of what is supposed to be a phone coming from Amazon. (The images are of a phone in an ugly case designed to obscure certain details; don't judge the design based on the images.) If you want all the nitty-gritty (and not yet official in any way) specs I'll refer you to BGR but what I found rather astonishing is that the phone has six cameras.
Why six? Well one on the back and one on the front for traditional photos and selfies. Then there are 4 more on the front that are intended to do facial tracking in order to properly display a 3D user interface. (That's an improvement over the 3DS which requires you to hold the device in the 'sweet spot' for the 3D effect to work properly) A post at the Wall Street Journal goes deeper into the 3D stuff, saying:
The 3-D screen technology can sense the movement of a person's eyes and whether the screen is moving closer to a user's face, according to people familiar with the matter. In response, the phone will be able to automatically zoom into images as it moves closer to a user's face and could manipulate text and images as a person moves the phone.
Well that seems interesting at least. But it also sounds like an expensive system both in terms of hardware (all those cameras!) and processing cycles.
I'm trying to keep an open mind but I just think 3D has come and gone. Maybe Amazon will prove me wrong. If WSJ is to be believed, the phone is scheduled to be announced in June and start shipping in September. That alone seems suspect to me. Amazon announced Fire TV the same day it started shipping, after all. I suppose a 3D phone requires some lead time to get app developers on-board, though.
What do you think? Are you itching to have a 3D phone interface? Or does it seem like another gimmick?
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.