[Note from Carolyn: Please welcome the first guest author to The Wonder of Tech: David. He has written a helpful and educational blog post explaining the new 3D technology from Nintendo.]
As you may have heard, a revolutionary new game console by Nintendo is to be released in a few days. This game console, the Nintendo 3DS, uses three-dimensional technology without the need for any form of glasses or eyewear. The device also includes many new, amazing features including augmented reality, where it is possible to look through the camera on screen and see what is in front of you displayed on the screen. This technology does seem quite impossible, but with Nintendo’s research, it is a reality to be released on Sunday, March 27th, 2011.
3-D technology has received a huge surge of interest recently due to the newly discovered ability to show 3-D screens in full color. You may be wondering, “Why do I need to buy a completely new, expensive TV just to see 3D? Why won’t 3D glasses just work with my TV?” The new 3D technology requires a special TV and special glasses, not like normal cyan-magenta glasses that we are all used to.
3D videos are simply made by having two cameras a few inches apart, and recording at the same time, just like your eyes do while viewing the real world. The two slightly-off images are combined, using many methods (the magenta/cyan is the old method) to show each eye one image.
The problem is how to make sure the left eye receives the left image taken by the camera, and the right eye receives the right image; a blur is seen if the image isn’t received by the correct eye. The cyan/magenta method merely colors each video, places them on top of each other, and the user wears filtered glasses; one eye does not see the cyan because the entire eye is shown cyan and blends in with the colored plastic filter on the 3D glasses, and vice versa for the other eye.
This method of course caused many problems, including making movies that were unpleasant to watch with ugly cyan and magenta colors filling the screen. A new technology was developed just recently that changed the way 3D works, allowing the viewer to see the screen in full color and definition.
Very simply, the new 3D-TVs flash the right and left images at a speed so fast that the naked eye can’t perceive the flashes. The 3D glasses alternately flash back and forth so the right lens flashes correspond with the right image being shown on the screen. Similarly, the left lens flashes correspond with the left image being shown on the screen. These flashes occur in a matter of microseconds, forcing each lens to reveal only one image at a time to the correct eye.
This technology requires that the synchronization of the flashes be very precise and finely tuned; if the flashes are even a microsecond off, the image will not be perceived correctly. That is why new 3D-TV glasses require a power button and batteries, to power the flashes.
This all leads to the new technology by Nintendo — used in the 3DS. Assessing all of these methods of 3D technology, plus many more not discussed here, you may wonder how would a 3D image be possible without glasses? Nintendo’s new console uses something called a “parallax barrier,” which is actually very easy to understand.
Consider holographic images, used on stickers and magnets that feel textured and show two different images when you move them back and forth. The Nintendo 3DS uses the same concept. The 3DS uses an LCD screen and has edges like a holographic image that act like shutters, except the 3DS edges show videos instead of images when you move it back and forth. If you look straight at the 3DS screen, you see both images blended together.
Now in the case of holographic stickers, looking straight at the sticker is not ideal, both images are not supposed to be on top of each other. But the 3DS uses this technology to “blend together” the right and left eye images, so each eye only sees one of the sides of the edges of the screen, just like the stickers. Only the right eye can see one side, and the left eye can only see the other, due to the amount of space between your eyes and the “shutters” that point each image to each eye.
So, if you move the 3DS back and forth, just like the stickers, you would see the two different images. In the exact center where they blend together to show a 3D image is known as the “sweet spot”. This technology takes gaming to a whole new level with depth perception now incorporated into games. Users can now understand how far a basketball hoop is from them in game or see how close that boss is in a battle.
The revolutionary design by Nintendo just proves that 3D technology can be expanded further. Now, this “parallax barrier” only works on small screens, which is why it can not be used for a TV (the space between your eyes is about 3 inches, which makes a small screen ideal; you would need a huge span between eyes for this technology to work with a large screen). Still, further development of this technology in the future may mean a manufacturer will sell a TV that “pops-out” at you, without the need for any eyewear whatsoever.
The Nintendo 3DS is to be released at $250.00 in the U.S. on March 27th, 2011 and will revolutionize gameplay experiences everywhere.
This informative and entertaining video explains the 3D technology discussed above, starting at 0:33:
From Carolyn – Many thanks to David for a great job explaining the new 3D technology from Nintendo! In other tech news:
Amazon’s Android Appstore
This week Amazon launched its Appstore selling apps to be used with smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system. Unlike the Android Market, Amazon’s Appstore vets the apps before they are offered to consumers. This makes Amazon a gatekeeper for the apps it sells, similar to the role Apple plays with its iTunes App Store.
When Android was first introduced, its fans lauded the openness of the Android operating system and the freedom it gave developers, unlike Apple’s closed iOS operating system. But with the recent malware attack by dozens of Android Market apps (see, iPad 2: Is It For You?), some were predicting the demise of the Android operating system. Amazon’s timing with their Appstore for Android is perfect, allowing those who want the assurance of a gatekeeper to be able to purchase Android apps from Amazon, and those who want to take their chances with an open market to be able to purchase from the Android Market.
Check out Android’s Angry Birds Rio edition, free for a limited time in Amazon’s Android Appstore.
* Images by Jeff Grubb