3D Smartphones Don't Make Much Sense

By  |  Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:02 am

On a quiet island within Sharp’s CES booth, a handful of glasses-free 3D smartphones were on display. They had eye-catching layered menus, 3D conversion of standard photos and a cute demo of swimming fish. (Rule of thumb: every 3D demo involves sea animals at some point.)

It only took a few minutes of playing around to see how undesirable all this 3D could be.

On tbe most obvious level, staring at a glasses-free 3D screen for a prolonged period can have a dizzying effect, but not all 3D is created equal, and maybe Sharp’s implementation is sub-par.¬†My real concern is that smartphones aren’t conducive to 3D content in the first place.

On smartphones, you interact by touching the screen — the same one that’s supposed to convey the illusion of depth. As soon as you start passing fingers over the screen, the 3D effect is ruined, so the potential uses are limited only to passive viewing.

Moreover, I’ve come to regard 3D as event-based media. You don’t want it for checking Twitter or snacking on a quick round of Angry Birds. You want to lean back and let your eyes get comfortable with the illusion for a couple hours at a time. Switching in and out of 3D at a rapid clip is pretty jarring, and I walked away from Sharp’s demo feeling discombobulated.

That’s not to say the Sharp’s 3D smartphone didn’t have wow factor, especially in the immediate visual effect of the layered home screen. But I have a hard time seeing the feature as more than a gimmick.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. @benjijk Says:

    I disagree!! You're not thinking ahead enough and squashing the idea before it has been fully developed. We use dual screens at work and home all the time. Obviously, that's not easy to do with a smartphone which has limited estate for screen sizes. But then think 3D. You can now have an interface with second screen layered over another in 3d space. Or maybe even 3 or 4 screens.
    Example: a 3/4 layer homescreen that allows you to see multiple pages at the same time, for say, facebook updates, twitter, stocks, etc. All by just glancing at the homescreen. And when required, any of those 4 layers can be brought to the top to focus, while the others continue updating behind the main screen, but slightly dimmer and blurred.

    Also, you don't have to touch the screen to input data. Think Kinect (Xbox) technology on a phone. Can be easily done by mini cameras, which can also double up as the vid conferencing cameras that many smartphones already have today. A wide variety of gestures can be easily accomdated.
    example: pinch to copy something to clipboard, wave to flip screens, an un-pinching motion to paste. The possibilities are endless.

    Guilty of condemning a potentially huge idea. Now think this for home computer screens. All acheived by one graphics card and one large monitor.

  2. JaredNewman Says:

    I agree with what you're saying, but I think you're actually describing holograms, which could theoretically pop out of the screen and give the user multiple layers of interaction. Autostereoscopic 3D, as used by Sharp, appears to recede into the screen, and is really just a 2D image with the illusion of depth. Layering data this way would be quite difficult.

    So if you're grant me that autostereoscopic 3D phones don't make a lot of sense, can I grant you that the idea of three-dimensional data itself is potentially huge?

    (Side question: By the time the things you describe become reality, will smartphones look anything like what they are today?)