3DS: How Nintendo can do 3D without glasses

Lenticular screens or motion tracking - which is best?

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 achievedand whether they're likely to be 'the one' or not.

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

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:

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


The longest-serving GR+ staffer, I was here when all this was just fields. I'm currently Reviews Editor but still find time to speedrun Sonic levels and make daft Photoshop articles.
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