It seems like everything is built around 3-D technology these days. From movies being filmed in 3-D to advertisements promoting the latest 3-D-capable televisions, you can’t get away from it. That said, not everyone is willing to jump on board the 3-D trend just yet. For some, the use of glasses might be expensive and cumbersome for private use. For others, 3-D can be uncomfortable if the effect is turned up too high, which causes strain on the user’s eyes as they try to blend the two images into one three-dimensional shape.
Enter the Nintendo 3DS: the successor to the best-selling line of Nintendo DS handhelds. The 3DS is a versatile piece of hardware that sports many features, from common ones like an Internet browser and music player to more unique applications like augmented reality games powered by the 3DS’ camera. For example, the built-in game “Face Raiders” lets players lob projectiles at enemies shaped from pictures taken of friends and family.
However, the chief feature that’s attracting a lot of buzz is the system’s ability to play games in 3-D without the use of special glasses. The specific effect used is called stereoscopic 3-D, in which two images, one positioned slightly to one side, blend together to create an image with depth. Eyes individually see in 2-D, but then the brain melds them into one image, allowing humans to see depth.
The 3DS uses this same concept, displaying two images simultaneously on the screen. A parallax barrier, which is a filter put on the screen that ‘bends’ one image in front to the left eye and one to the right, creates a sweet spot in the middle where the two ‘bent’ images converge into one 3-D picture for the user to see.
“It’s like looking into a window,” said Andrew Lenz, freshman in kinesiology.
Lenz purchased the 3DS this past Sunday when the system was first released.
“It has depth,” he said. “3-D [that uses glasses] feels more like layers in front of a screen; this is more into the screen.”
Taking a lesson from the Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s first venture into 3-D graphics that was released in 1995 and met with disappointing sales and reports of eye strain and headaches, the 3DS features a depth slider that alters the strength of the 3-D effect for maximum comfort. The depth can be adjusted anytime during gameplay to maximize the eye-popping visuals while minimizing headaches.
“It’s really useful,” said Lenz. “If I start getting a headache, I can just adjust the slider.”
The 3-D feature can be turned off, allowing users to play in traditional 2-D, the recommended setting for younger children. Between eliminating the glasses and allowing users to adjust the 3-D effect to their liking, the Nintendo 3DS seems to be taking the right precautions and could make 3-D more accessible than it has ever been.
Because parallax barrier technology only works at a specific viewing angle, the effect isn’t suitable for larger screens like televisions or movie theaters, but it’s ideal for a handheld gaming device being handled by one person at a time. In fact, manufacturers like LG Electronics have already made plans to release smartphones that use the same glasses-free technology as the 3DS. One day handheld devices that boast 3-D technology might become commonplace, and while some consider it to be just a fad, they can rest assured that at least they won’t be constrained to those clunky spectacles anymore.