With the release of Nintendo's 3DS, curiosity is running high about the technology that makes 3D gaming possible–without the need for any glasses. I don't know if the announcement of this device managed to pique your curiosity about the scientific aspect behind it, but mine certainly was.
The Dawn of 3D Gaming
The development of the 3D gaming has actually been in the works for the past few decades or so. Nintendo was actually one of the first video game console developers to integrate 3D technology into its gaming devices such as the Virtual Boy and GameCube. However, these consoles were only met with limited success, partly because the 3D technology behind these devices left a lot to be desired. Nintendo persevered in integrating 3D into their projects until the handheld Nintendo 3DS was announced to the world.
So how did Nintendo make 3D gaming into a possibility? What is the science behind the technology that they used to put together and develop the 3DS? The answer lies in autostereoscopy.
Autostereoscopy is a method used to display images that are stereoscopic in nature without requiring the use of any special headgear or lenses on the part of the viewer. In short, it's a method that can allow a person to perceive images in three dimensions without having to wear any 3D glasses.
The kind of 3D that has been around for years is actually the stereoscopic kind. This is "traditional" 3D wherein viewers or players have to put on 3D glasses in order to be able to experience the three dimensional effects. This is what we encounter when we go watch a movie or use glasses to view still images in three dimensions. Autostereoscopy has a leg up over this because it allows you to experience 3D without requiring anything else but your eyes and your fully-functioning brain. This means that you can delve inside the three-dimensional world anytime, anywhere without having to fidget around for glasses or headgear that can sometimes decrease the whole 3D movie-watching/gaming/viewing experience.