When talking about 3D-capable mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, and even if we include ultraportable laptops as well there are actually still not many products on the market. The problem is that people kind of expect to get glasses free 3D display on those devices and that is still a bit of a problem to achieve in both technological way if you want to provide a really good experience as well as to make them affordable, resulting in an end user price not much higher than what the same device with a 2D-capable display would cost. And while autostereoscopic 3D technology still has some way to go it is already starting to get quite good and affordable for smaller size displays such as the ones found on mobile devices, so this year we finally may see more products and increased interest in smartphones and tablets with not only 3D-capabilities, but also with glasses free displays. Meanwhile however the most popular way to get 3D support on your smartphone or a tablet is to get a piece of 3D film that will make your 2D display capable of showing 3D images without you having to wear any kind of 3D glasses. With mobile devices getting higher and higher resolution displays with more pixels per inch their screens it is not much of a problem to have the resolution halved when displaying stereoscopic 3D images on them. There are already a lot of such products available on the market, most of which are targeted for iPhone and iPad users, but some also cover other mobile devices as well. There however are some drawbacks with most of these 3D film solutions, relying on either parallax barrier or lenticular principle of work. Things like reducing the brightness, being hard to apply, bringing uncomfortable feeling when used or too thick to properly relay touch controls, problems with useability in 2D mode, working in only one orientations and others are some of the factors that are contributing to the not so fast adoptions even though the potential market is really huge.
There is a new company on the horizon called Nanoveu that promises to soon deliver a product based on nano technology that is supposed to change the generally not so good impression about 3D film-based products intended to make your mobile device with 2D display into a 3D-capable one. What Nanoveu promises is a solution that addresses all of the issues that most other similar products currently have and thus providing a really enjoyable experience when viewing 3D content such as photos, movies or even games. Nanoveu’s 3D film is supposed to be very thin (0.1mm) and flexible and be able to also act as a screen protector for the device it is applied on, be very lightweight and low cost to make and with a more affordable end-user price, easy to be applied and to be removed, and not needing power source to function. Furthermore you apply the Nanoveu 3D film you should be able to use your device for viewing 3D content in both Portrait and Landscape orientation, and you should be able to use your device in 2D mode without having to remove the 3D filter. These two things are among the most annoying limitations that pretty much all other solutions on the market have and normally users don’t like to have a lot of limitations, they just want to be able to use their mobile device in 3D mode as easy as it works in 2D mode. Furthermore we get a promise for no visual brightness loss with the filter applied, smoother feeling and no problems whatsoever when using the touch functionality of the display. So far it all sounds really promising and Nanoveu expects to be able to start shipping their NanoFlez 3D film on 2nd of April with pre-orders for it currently going on the company’s website.
One more important thing regarding the NanoFlez 3D film from Nanoveu that you should be well aware of, the autostereoscopic 3D functionality that the product will be introducing would also require a special software that will have the image displayed in as special format that the 3D film will be able to show in 3D. This means that in order to see a 3D photo or watch a 3D movie you’d need to download this software and play the 3D content over it, currently there is not much information about the software available and I could not find anything published on the AppStore, though there is time and it will probably be released closer to the time when the products start shipping. Nanoveu also mentions the ability to play games in stereo 3D using their 3D film, this would either mean a software able to convert normal games into stereo 3D ones (not likely) or the more likely solution would be to have the game developers start to add stereo 3D output support for the NanoFlez 3D film. Either way you should think about 3D photo and 3D movies for now with stereoscopic 3D gaming as something that you might get at some point as well. The fact that the 3D film is going to be made available not only for iOS devices, but also for Android based ones as well as Max OSX would mean that there should be versions of the supporting software made available for the various platforms as well and in reality this can slow down the release of the Android and OSX products more than the time that is needed for the development and production of the actual products. In the end it is also very important what the end-users will think about the product and if they will like it or not, Nanoveu has already generated a lot of interest before delivering the actual product, so let us see what will happen when it starts shipping. The company has been demonstrating their product on this year’s CES and Neil Schneider from MTBS has managed to get a short interview with the company’s Founder and CEO Alfred Chong there, you can watch the video interview embedded above.
Initially Nanoveu is going to be offering the NanoFlez 3D film for iPhone 5 and iPod Touch 5 owners only, and if you pre-order it before March 15th you can get free shipping. The price of the NanoFlez 3D film for iPhone 5 or iPod Touch 5 is $29.95 USD and is sounds very reasonable if the product is able to really deliver what the company promises. Nanoveu also has plans for offering their 3D film for other devices such as the iPad 3/iPad 4, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, HTC DNA/Butterfly as well as even for the Macbook Pro with Retina Display systems as well as others. As I’m still a user of an iPhone 4S I’m currently more interested in the upcoming iPad version of the product, but if Nanoveu’s 3D film really delivers what they are promising I could as well finally find a reason to upgrade to an iPhone 5. Nevertheless I’ll keep an eye on how things are progressing with Nanoveu as they have developed a very promising technology with a lot of potential that can really drive the adoption of 3D solutions among mobile device users.
Pic3D is another product in the form of a thin plastic sheet that you can attach to a 2D display to make it able to display stereoscopic 3D content without any hardware modification or additional hardware (no 3D glasses are required), you will of course need a special software player to be able to play the content in 3D. Pic3D has been developed by a Japanese company called Global Wave and although it has been announced a while ago, it is still only available on the Japanese market only. Pic3D comes in the form of lenticular sheets for different devices and screen sizes that when applied turns ordinary 2D displays into autostereoscopic 3D ones. Currently the Pic3D supports only for playback of 3D movies, and although the software players accept Side by Side input, the output of the device is neither row or column interleaved, but the lines are actually kind of angled in order not to have that much noticeable loss of resolution and detail in 3D mode, but more about that in a bit…
Pic3D is available for all more recent Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S (available for 2100 Yen or about $27 USD), iPod touch4G (available for 2100 Yen or about $27 USD) and the iPad 2 (available for 4725 Yen or about $61 USD). There is a free player application available for these devices on the AppStore, actually there are two – Pic3D and Pic3D II (pictured above) with the second one probably being with more intuitive and easier for use interface if you are not Japanese. The player application supports playback of Side by Side 3D videos only either available locally or from YouTube 3D video library, unfortunately there is no support for 3D photo playback and currently you will not be able to use the Pic3D with any game for the iOS.
The Pic3D is also available for some laptops as well as for desktop monitors. The mobile computer versions are designed for laptops with a screen size of 12.1-inches and resolution of 1280×800 pixels (available for 4725 Yen or about $61 USD) as well as for 15.6-inch laptops with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels (available for 6300 Yen or about $81 USD). The models for desktop monitors are intended for 21.5-inch Full HD displays and for 23-inch Full HD displays with a prices of 14700 Yen and 15750 Yen respectively or about $190 USD and $203 USD which is already quite a bit expensive. There are actually 3D monitors that you can buy for that much, although not autostereoscopic 3D ones, but still 3D-capable using passive 3D glasses. On the image above you can see a sample output from a Side by Side 3D video being played with the PC version of the video player that you need to use with the Pic3D attached to your screen. The video player for Windows can also benefit from some improvements in the interface and getting video controls while playing back the content, I’ve also noticed that it does consume quite a lot of system memory when playing back 3D videos.
Pic3D’s approach is a bit different as compared to some of the other similar products, although their product is in the form of a thin plastic foil, it does not completely stick to the display of the device, so you can easily remove and reattach it when you want to. The company also claims that through their filter the 2D image displayed on the screen will be left unaffected, so even with the filter applied the display should be quite useable when playing back normal 2D content. Pic3D also promises higher brightness, so after being applied it should reduce the maximum level of brightness of the device by just about 10% and is supposed to provide wide viewing angles of up to 120 degrees, so it does sound really promising. There are however some limitations that you should also be well aware of…
You should know that on mobile devices such as the iPhone or iPad, where you can easily rotate the screen you will not be able to use the 3D mode in all orientations, it will be available only in the landscape mode (the player locks it in when started). The same also applies for the versions of the product for laptops and desktop monitors, but there you are not very likely to rotate the monitor anyway, so it isn’t that much of a limitation for them as for the mobile devices. Furthermore there is no support for playing back of 3D photos using the Pic3D for the moment and you are also not able to play games in stereo 3D mode. Due to the non standard image input for 3D that the Pic3D screen filter uses you are not able to feed it with such output from an application such as iZ3D or DDD TriDef 3D in order to play your favorite games in stereo 3D mode for example. Maybe the developers of the product will do something about the current limitation of only being able to play Side by Side 3D videos using their product, but for now this is not making their product way too attractive for anything other than maybe Apple’s mobile devices. Still and interesting product to watch, especially if/when it also becomes available outside of Japan as well…
SpatialView’s 3DeeCentral software for watching stereoscopic 3D content on iPhone got an update allowing you to easily capture photos in stereo 3D with the single camera available on the iPhone 4/4S and then to preview the photos in 3D on the smartphone. In order for this to work you need to use the 3DeeCentral software together with SpatialViews’s special adapter called 3DeeSlide for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S that transforms the 2D display of the phone into an autostereoscopic 3D one (with reduced resolution in 3D mode). You can see a demonstration of the new 3D photo taking feature on the video above, it seems quite easy and there is a ghost image being displayed to help you take the second photo, and there is an extra adjustment phase for the two photos available after that, so that the resulting 3D image could be great. Not sure if the software can already take advantage of the improved camera features such as higher resolution in the iPhone 4S, most likely not yet as it requires the use of iOS 4.3 and not iOS 5 as a minimum. The only drawback is that you would need to move the 3DeeLens on and off the screen quite a lot if you are taking multiple pictures in 3D using the application. The interface could probably be easily tweaked, so that you will not have to do all the acrobatics with moving the lens that makes the screen in 3D and then removing it to see it back in 2D when taking 3D photos. Also sharing of the 3D photos you have taken with this application could be a bit limited, especially if you want to send it to someone that does not use the 3DeeCentral software. Also have in mind that the 3DeeCentral software is free, but it does not work on jailbroken iPhones.