If the recent announcement of the 3DS handheld by Nintendo can be believed, the future is not only bright, but in bold and living 3D – and apparently we won't need to wear shades.
Rumored to be working with 3D Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology developed by Sharp in 2006, Nintendo has created the 3DS, a slightly smaller version of its wildly popular DS handheld series. The last iteration, the DSi, did well for Nintendo, and for a company that's been on a roll since the Wii stomped all over the hearts and minds of Microsoft and Sony, a 3D announcement was unexpected, to say the least. Fantastic, yes, but not really necessary, given their current market domination.
Nonetheless, on Mar 27, 2010, Nintendo announced the coming of its 3D portable, quietly and without much fuss, as if such an announcement would not cause a rippling pulse of stunned bewilderment in the minds of geeks across the globe.
For years, true stereoscopic 3D has been the holy grail of home entertainment, with the ultimate goal being its application in televisions, especially those that fall in to the "home theater" category. Stereoscopic 3D is the kind that allows the wearer to perceive images on a flat screen as though they were three dimensional, but without red-and-blue glasses or by forcing their eyes to cross and produce the "magic picture" effect from a blurry background.
3D Glasses. Always stylish.
The technology developed by Sharp uses the concept of parallax to achieve stereoscopic images – which is the apparent displacement of a an object along two different lines of sight.
It works like this – imagine you're heading back to work after lunch, and you come across a wall that is red on the left side and blue on the right. Twenty feet back from the wall, you discover a window, complete with frame and double-paned glass, embedded in the ground. How odd. As you're backing away from this very strange situation, you stray to the left of the window, and you notice that only the blue side of the wall is visible. Intrigued, you move to the right side of the window, and lo and behold, the red colored portion of the wall comes into view.
Suddenly and without warning, the wall is multi-colored along its entire length, and the strange window's glass dissapears, only to be replaced with a screen. Worried that the burrito you had for lunch from that street vendor had more than just beef and cheese in it, you consider quickly leaving, but when you glance through the screen from where you're standing, you notice that it is filtering out some of the colors on the wall, and those that are still coming through have resolved themseleves into the image of a peaceful sunset. Still a little weirded out, you move back to the left of the window and look again. This time, the image of a vengeful Knight stares back at you, both he and his charger glaring menacingly at anything in their path.
Sliding back to the middle, you start to approach this magic window head on, but when you look through the screen, you see both images superimposed. Suddenly, without the need for glasses, a dark knight is bearing down upon you, and that beautiful sunset might just be your last. Unsurprisingly, you turn and run, promising yourself that you'll call the health authorities the very next day about "Juan" and his magic burritos.
To Sharp, this metaphorical window is what's known as a "parallax barrier", with the wall standing in for an LCD screen. Juan represents no technology, and agreed to play a part merely because he owed us a favor. In reality, a parallax barrier is a small sheet of plastic that is placed over an LCD monitor and has the ability to filter which pixels are being shown to the user. This means that two people looking at the screen from different angles can see two entirely different images, and one person looking directly at it can experience 3D images without the need for glasses.
The devastating one-two punch of Nintendo's new handheld and Sharp's technology isn't yet official, but is strongly hinted at by the fact that the technology is suited for small screens and that several cellphone companies are currently using this 3D technique in Japan. Nintendo has said that the 3DS will be on display at E3 in June, and is looking at a release date in early 2011.
If this handheld works as well as the bulk of the products that Nintendo has put out during this generation of the console wars, it will be an unstoppable force. Finding one of these will likely be reminescent of the early days of Wii-purchasing, which involved luck, courage, and the ability to hold your place in line in the face of giant, burly men who wanted a Wii "for their kids".
You wouldn't hit a guy in 3D glasses, right?
Sources: Engadget, Nikkei, Asahi