3DS: How Nintendo can do 3D without glasses

Nintendo's newly-announced 3DS handheld will feature 3D-effect graphics without the need for glasses. This is known as 'autostereoscopy', which sounds more like a CD player that automatically copies CDs than seeing Mario pop out of the screen at you, but there you go.

So let's look at how 3D could be achieved - and is already being achieved and whether they're likely to be 'the one' or not.


Lenticular 3D:

This kind of technology gives a 3D effect using a filter that cuts out interlaced lines for your eyes. While this can be used in static images to give them animation, in screens it instead allows different images to be broacast to different points in space. Seeing as the 3DS will always have the player at a reasonably predictable distance from the screen, this could really work. The tech has to be perfect, though - otherwise you'll get ghosting.

This video shows a home-made lenticular filter for use with iPhone - so it's definitely a possibility.

Then there's the Hitachi WOOO H001 phone in japan which can already show 3D TV broadcasts and games. Sadly we haven't got one of these so we can't vouch for its quality, but it does have a switch so you can view 2D images if you wish - which the 3DS would need for its backwards compatibility.

Above: Handheld 3D technology already exists... but so far only in Japan


Head tracking 3D:

This method uses the position of the gamer's head to alter the camera angle in the game. While the video below shows how it would work with Wiimote sensors on the side of your head, a similar effect could be replicated using a front-facing camera in the style of the DSi to watch your head as you play.

And don't forget that Japanese DSi game that already uses this effect:


Accelerometer-based 3D:

This uses a tilt sensor like the one found in the iPhone to tell the game which camera angle it should be displaying, as used by games such as Word Fu (skip to 2:39 to see the tilt in action).

However, while the effect is impressive, it doesn't respond to your eyes' positioning, which means you can't look around corners without tilting the device. So this one's unlikely, as it would only benefit certain game types.

Which is the more likely? Something like that Hitachi cell phone, we reckon. It's compact enough to fit into a tiny mobile device, the screen quality looks good and it already works without the need for glasses as well as reverting to 2D when required. Unless Nintendo has developed its own bespoke 3D technology. You never know...

24 Mar, 2010

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  • Shagnasty - March 28, 2010 5:57 a.m.

    Is that DSi game Rooms? Also chances are we might get two touch screens instead of just one.
  • Tygerclaws - March 26, 2010 12:45 a.m.

    I still think this is a bad idea. Even if they DO manage to somehow give it's a DS. The point is to touch things. Is only one screen going to be 3D? Even further, it's a handheld. Wouldn't it make more sense to make a 3D CONSOLE, instead?
  • Cyberninja - March 25, 2010 9:35 p.m.

    i hope they hire that guy from the video with head tracking
  • Clickshark - March 25, 2010 8:56 p.m.

    Wow! Leave it to Nintendo! C'mon western devs lets see some innovation like this!
  • sleepy92ismypsn - March 25, 2010 8:32 p.m.

    wow i didnt know 3d was possible without glasses that head tracking one was my favorite. i hope there is news coming soon of a psp2 and i hope sony copies nintendo again and gets a 3d handheld even though sony had 3d console gaming first
  • GameManiac - March 25, 2010 4:07 p.m. I know what I'm saving my money for. My guess is that the 3DS will be worth about $300. I can easily afford that in one year.
  • philipshaw - March 25, 2010 1:45 p.m.

    The guy in the last video sounds like them kids in Heavy Rain. "We won't get beat"
  • awil117 - March 24, 2010 11:24 p.m.

    Wow. That blew my mind with the japanese guy and that very technical information on how to create 3D objects yourself. :D
  • lymanzaar - March 24, 2010 8:03 p.m.

    I am impressed. looks like whatever nintendos planning, they have options to support it...*cough* virtual boy *cough*
  • QWERTYCommander - March 24, 2010 5:04 p.m.

    The DSi game blew my mind.
  • MagicalSarai - March 24, 2010 3:37 p.m.

    How about something... NOT mentioned here. Jeebus. Nintendo is renown for doing things THEIR way. I quite expect them to do something along the lines of that DSi game, but with more shocking nature to it. Besides, from what I've heard... they've been giving out new developer kits, and the devs are saying that the power is near that of a gamecube. I expect it to be something fairly intriguing.
  • ventanger - March 24, 2010 3:19 p.m.

    I'm excited about this, if I had to bet I'd wager that the head tracking is the way it will go. recaptcha: 12-year-old guards ...That CAN'T be good security
  • Geminiman82 - March 24, 2010 3:07 p.m.

    Anyone know what the name of that Japanese game is in the 3DS video?
  • flabslapper - March 24, 2010 2:43 p.m.

    all I can say is I WON'T be buying this thing on day 1 like I did with the Wii, I'm not getting dooped again by a flashy gimmick
  • drhooch - March 24, 2010 2:40 p.m.

    I watched the video of the 3DS and I'll say this: Holy balls, it blew my mind.
  • GR_JustinTowell - March 24, 2010 2:15 p.m.

    The problem with head/motion tracking is that it doesn't give any illusion of depth. Try Word Fu on a real iPhone and you'll see what I mean. I'm actually pretty disappointed by it! Fingers crossed for lenticular 3D...
  • FuriousAngel - March 24, 2010 1:17 p.m.

    Only the first one is true 3D as each eye sees a different image, the other two don't give a true sense of depth as each eye is still seeing a flat image. At the moment lenticular screens are FAR from perfect, you'd be better off with red/blue glasses, so I'm placing my bets on a mixture of head and motion tracking to give you a 'false' 3D effect which could be fun for some games.
  • Geminiman82 - March 24, 2010 1:07 p.m.

    FIRST! I hope this isn't just some kind of gimmick because if done right, this could revolutionize the graphics of gaming!