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How to get glasses-free 3D on your iPhone

How to get glasses-free 3D on your iPhone

The Nintendo 3DS launched in March, sold just under 400,000 units in it’s first day and displays 3D content on the screen without the need for glasses.

I wrestled a 3DS from a friend’s kid recently, interrupting his Nintendogs session, to see if it really worked – and it did. No glasses, just 3D right there on the screen. Some adjusting had to be done, tweaking settings and finding the right angle to view it from, but it worked – 3D right there on the screen! For a lover of 3D like myself it was amazing.

The Nintendo 3DS is currently the only glasses-free 3D handheld device I know of, but 3D smartphones are just around the corner – soon the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC Evo 3D will be released; two Android phones with glasses free 3D capability, both in display and capturing still and video images in 3D.

Engadget have a hands on video of the HTC Evo 3d and T3 have a video of the LG Optimus 3D, both devices seem to impress with their 3D.

Of course there are rumours that the iPhone 5 will get 3D capability , but to be honest so far there don’t seem to be any rumours of substance. Looking at patents filed we can be sure Apple have been exploring glasses free 3D, but whether the company feels the time is right for 3D or not remains to be seen.

However if you want glasses-free 3D content on your phone right now, you can have it. Spatial View have produced the 3DSlide – a case that holds your iPhone 3GS so you can slip a small screen over your main screen and watch 3D content. The 3DeeSlide for the iPhone4 is on the way, due to be announced in Spring.

At the time of writing there is a limited offer to receive a free slide, if you have an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch 3G you can receive it now, and if you have a fourth generation device you can register to receive a free one when it’s available for your device.

I received mine in the post and can confirm it works, although admittedly it took more fiddling than the Nintendo 3DS to find the sweet spot – you have to move the screen, the phone, and your head around until you are about to give up and then bang! Suddenly you’re looking at 3D content. Once you have found the sweet spot once it’s easier to locate it again.

I was quite excited to be watching 3D content on my iPhone without glasses, but as a disclaimer I should tell you that my housemates were fairly unimpressed. Maybe it takes a certain kind of 3D fan to get excited about these things, which is why I think Apple will hold off on a 3D native device until handheld 3D is proven to be a feature consumers want.

One thing to be aware of if you are a 3D fan and want to try the 3DeeSlide is that I found it quite hard to remove the case when I was finished playing with the 3D. Others have reported scratches on their iPhone from the case – but since removing the case I have used the screen itself without the case just by holding it in the right place.

There is enough free 3D Content available from 3DeeCentral (Spatial View’s 3D site) so you can appreciate the effect, and also documentaries and films you can purchase.

The Nintendo 3DS and the 3DeeSlide use similar, but different, technologies to produce glasses free 3D – the Nintendo 3DS is more technologically advanced and therefore produces better results.

We see in 3D in real life as the brain processes the two slightly different images received by each eye. 3D effects work by displaying different images to each of your eyes to recreate this effect. 3D glasses filter a different image to each eye – some of them using light filters, others have shutter systems.

To create 3D on a screen without glasses the 3DS and forthcoming Android devices use a parallax barrier. The parallex barrier sends a different image to each eye by directing light out of the screen at different angles.

The 3DeeSlide is similar but somewhat less accurate, it uses a lenticular screen that sits over the screen which has ridges that cause the eyes to see different parts of the image. Here is an example of how an image looks without the screen applied – this is two images composited into one image in alternate diagonal stripes:

3DeeSlide Example Parallax Barrier vs Lenticular Screen

You have to be sitting a specific distance from the screen and at the right angle for the images to reach your eyes at the right angles and produce the 3D effect – this is why single person handheld devices are perfect for this technology, although advances are being made in increasing the viewing angle.

Check out this video and article on 3D and how the Nintendo 3DS works for more info.

So – what do you think? Would you like Apple to bring out an iPhone with native glasses-free 3D capability?