3D Vision Blog

A normal user's look into the world of 3D Stereo Technologies

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What Has Happened to The 3D Smartphones and 3D Tablets

October 4th, 2013 · 10 Comments · Other S3D Tech


The mobile devices markets are booming as more and more people are switching to smartphones and start using tablets in their everyday life, but what has happened with 3D smartphones and 3D tablets? If the mobile devices market is growing a lot constantly and quite fast why we are not also seeing new mobile devices with stereoscopic 3D capabilities. A good question indeed, it is not that some companies haven’t tried introducing 3D-capable mobile devices, it was probably a bit early for them in terms of technological capabilities, but that does not mean we should not be getting new products available as the technology advances. So why it is not happening when we are seeing announcements of newer and faster mobile processors and mobile graphics with more and more cores, higher resolution displays and better cameras all the time?

In 2011 LG introduced their first 3D-capable smartphone LG Optimus 3D P920 (also known as LG Thrill 4G in some markets) and HTC did a similar thing with their HTC EVO 3D smartphone with both devices featuring autostereoscopic 3D displays (glasses-free), dual cameras for 3D photo and video capture and 3D output over HDMI to an external 3D-capable display. LG even introduced at a bit later time a software to render normal non-stereo 3D Android-based games into stereoscopic 3D ones (apparently powered by DDD’s TriDef 3D software for mobile devices). The next year LG announced another 3D-capable smartphone called c P720 as a successor for the Optimus 3D device, though it was not that much improved over the older model and after that they stopped with 3D support. These three smartphones are pretty much the only globally available mobile devices of this type with stereoscopic 3D capabilities, though there are some other 3D-capable smartphones being released only in certain countries such as Japan, South Korea, China or India.

On the 3D tablet market there is pretty much only one name – Gadmei, a Chinese company that became very popular thanks to their affordable 3D tablet with an autostereoscopic 3D display in 2011 and 2012. Being one of the first and offering affordable device it has quickly become widespread, and now there are even a few very similar models available with 3D capabilities from Gadmei. Not to mention that the company has also made OEM versions with different brand names. The problem with these devices is that their glasses-free 3D displays are not that good offering limited number of viewing points and the resolution of the displays isn’t that high especially for 3D use. Furthermore no 3D cameras and ability to play games in stereoscopic 3D mode, so they were mostly good for previewing 3D photos or watching 3D movies. This year the NEO3D tablet became a reality after a successful crowdfunding campaign, though this is essentially rebranded Gadmei 3D tablet that comes with a few extras intended for the American market even though they ship it worldwide. And while the NEO3D tablet is more appealing for the North American customers due to the local warranty and support along with some extras such as TriDef 3D mobile application for transforming Android games in stereo 3D mode the overall 3D experience is pretty much the same. In 2011 LG also tried to go on the 3D tablet market, but with a half finished product and by half finished I mean a device that had for example a dual cameras for 3D capture, but was not equipped with an autostereoscopic 3D-capable display and instead supported anaglyph 3D mode so you had to use red-cyan 3D glasses. And the worst thing you could do with a 3D capable smartphone or tablet is to want the user to use 3D glasses in order to be able take advantage of the 3D capabilities of his device. Another interesting thing in terms of 3D support on tablets is what Nvidia did with the release of their Tegra 3 chipset – porting their 3D Vision technology to tablets powered by Tegra 3 and thus alowing some games to be rendered in stereoscopic 3D mode. The catch here was that there was no tablets with Tegra 3 released with an autostereoscopic 3D display, but you could connect the tablet to a 3D-capable 3D HDTV or a 3D monitor with HDMI 1.4 3D support and play the game on the larger display in 3D. Unfortunately not all Tagra 3 powered tablets supported that feature and other devices such the Ouya game console or the Wikipad gaming tablet (powered by Tegra 3) did not come with 3D support as well. And with the announcement of the newer Tegra 4 that mostly improves the graphical performance over the previous generation Nvidia hasn’t even talked about stereo 3D support and the first devices such as the Project SHIELD or the first Tegra 4-powered tablets are apparently not going to even support external stereo 3D output. And in the last year or so not only the stereo 3D supporting games for Android ad Tegra did not increase, but actually they have decreased to 14 from 16 according to Nvidia’s Tegra Zone website.

So what do we need to have a successful 3D-capable tablet or a smartphone? First a good autostereoscopic 3D display that will allow the user not to loose the 3D effect while moving the tablet like for example when playing a game that uses motion of the device to be controlled. Of course the glasses-free 3D display has to come with higher resolution and pixel density in order for the image in 3D to look good enough even with the reduced resolution in stereo 3D mode. Furthermore the 3D display should be useable in stereo 3D mode inn both portrait and landscape mode and not be limited to just landscape orientation because of the parallax barrier used to achieve the 3D effect. Well, you can say that we have pretty much covered all of these already which reminds me for example of MasterImage 3D’s Cell-Matrix Parallax Barrier technology that looked great when it was announced and though already quite some time has passed it still is nowhere to be found. Or at least almost nowhere to be found with just one 3D-capable smartphone using it that got released only on the market in India earlier this year – the Micromax Canvas 3D A115 smartphone with 5.0-inch display with just 480×800 resolution and that is far from great for stereoscopic 3D use if you ask me.

Looking around for new and interesting mobile devices that are supposed to be available this year on the market one device caught my attention – the Hampoo 3D tablet that is supposed to be on the market by the end of this year. Hampoo is another Chinese manufacturer that is making a 10.1-inch tablet with 1920×1200 resolution autostereoscopic 3D display and more up to date specifications compared to the hardware you can find in the Gadmei 3D tablets. Apparently the company is already shipping volume orders of their Hampoo 3D tablet, but I’m still unable to find the device anywhere available for sale to end users. In the end the things on the mobile 3D-capable devices market seem even worse that what is currently happening on the PC market in terms of solutions for stereoscopic 3D including, but not limited to gaming. And the 3D content available for mobile 3D-capable devices is even more problematic than that available for 3D-capable computers, and that is just another problem ahead of the 3D-capable smartphones and 3D tablets. Unlike with computers, where you can do with a 3D display that requires the viewer to wear glasses in order to be able to see the 3D effect, with mobile devices that is not an option so an autostereoscopic 3D display ad a good one at that is a must have feature. And while the glasses-free 3D displays need some improvement and thus the technology sill needs to catch up, we are also seeing a lot of alternatives in the form of various adapters that will turn your non-3D smartphone into a 3D-capable device. Most recent and interesting of which are the EyeFly 3D and the vrAse, both of which are looking very promising and you might want to keep an eye on and try them if able to and have a compatible device. Have in mind that vrAse is still not released and is still an ongoing project on Kickstarter even though their goal for funding has been reached already, you can still support the project and get a unit earlier.

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HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D Getting Android 4.0 Updates

July 17th, 2012 · 6 Comments · General 3D News

Most users of 3D-capable smartphones such as the HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D (LG Thrill 4G) are anticipating the promised updates to the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system for their devices. Though some users of the HTC EVO 3D smartphones in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) already started getting the update at the end of June (the GSM version of the device), the users in the USA will still have to wait until early August to get the update available to them as well. If you’ve managed to get one of the HTC Evo V 4G smartphones in the USA, then you were lucky enough to get it with Android 4.0 as this is essentially the same as HTC EVO 3D, with 4G support, but coming directly with the new OS. Owners LG Optimus 3D, or LG Thrill 4G as it is named in the USA probably won’t have to wait much more for the update as as well, because LG has promised it will be available in the third quarter of 2012. What was a bit of an unpleasant surprise was the release of the updated LG Optimus 3D MAX not that long ago and the fact that it did not come with the Ice Cream Sandwich pre-installed, but instead came with Android 2.3. Hopefully the MAX version of Optimus 3D will also get its update along with the earlier non MAX model, because the two devices are actually not that different from each other.

Now, the big question is if the update to Android 4.0 ICS will actually bring some significant improvements in the features and capabilities of these 3D-capable mobile devices, including in their stereoscopic 3D functionality or it will remain more of an upgrade of the core OS modules bringing improvements in the interface and speed of the device, and hopefully on battery life as well. Guess we’ll have to wait a bit more for the updates to become widely available to see what new have both LG and HTC prepared for us, meanwhile has anyone actually seen a proper review of the new features in HTC EVO 3D after the update to Android 4.0, from someone in the EMEA region that already got the update available and installed?

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Developing Stereoscopic 3D Games and Apps for Mobile Devices

July 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment · General 3D News

If you are a game developer and you want to make a stereoscopic 3D-capable game there are three major platforms at the moment that should be your target, but unfortunately each of them is different and uses slightly different approach than the others. These are the two 3D-capable smartphones available from LG – Optimus 3D and Optimus 3D Max (available under slightly different name in some regions) along with the HTC EVO 3D. Then there are a few so far devices based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 platform, however none of the already available smartphones or tablets based on Tegra 3 feature a stereoscopic 3D-capable display built-in, unlike the 3D smartphones from LG and HTC. So with Tegra 3 devices you need to use an external stereoscopic 3D-capable display, until some devices such as the Wikipad come out with a built-in 3D screen. There are of course multiple other smartphones with 3D-capable displays available in some countries, but the limited availability of these devices usually makes the development of stereoscopic 3D games or applications not very attractive. What is interesting to note here is that all of these devices are pretty much based on Android operating system, nothing from Apple yet (though there are constant rumors) or from Microsoft and their Windows-based solutions for mobile devices, though maybe with Windows 8 we can get something…

LG calls the stereoscopic 3D games for their mobile phones and applications Real 3D applications, they have a separate page for Real 3D app development along with their LG SDK. You can also find some examples and details about the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of LG’s smartphones, so you can quickly and easily get familiar with the way stereo 3D works on LG’s 3D smartphones – LG’s Real3D SDK. LG however also offers an alternative more targeted at users than developers, it is a software called LG 3D Game Converter that converts 3D games into stereoscopic 3D ones in real-time. This converter allows the users to play a normal game in stereoscopic 3D mode as the game is being converted in real-time by the phone, the results in terms of stereoscopic 3D effect vary and some games are unplayable due to the lack of performance to be converted it real-time by the device. Though this solution essentially extends the number of games that can be played in stereoscopic 3D mode on LG’s 3D smartphones significantly.

Next up is Nvidia and their Tegra 3 platform, a powerful and feature rich solution, though apparently Nvidia does not push the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the platform a lot as an interesting extra, unlike what they are doing in the PC segment with 3D Vision. The interesting thing here is that Nvidia uses a similar approach to providing stereoscopic 3D support on Tegra 3 devices as they do on PC with 3D Vision, they kind of convert 3D games into stereoscopic 3D ones in real-time. But in order to be able to play a game in stereoscopic 3D format it apparently has to be developed for Tegra using Nvidia’s SDK and to have a profile telling the device that stereoscopic 3D mode can be enabled by the user. It is not like with LG’s game converter where you can try to convert any Android game, though the results may vary depending on the game, with Tegra 3 there is a limited number of Tegra-optimized games that can be played in stereo 3D mode. Unfortunately Nvidia does not share a lot of details regarding the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of Tegra 3, at least not with the general public, maybe developers get more information, so you should check out Nvidia’s Developer Zone for more info when it gets back online as it is currently down due to some issues.

HTC is not so active in the area of stereoscopic 3D support like LG is, and they are probably even less active than Nvidia, however they do offer developers information and support for developing stereoscopic 3D applications and games for their HTC EVO 3D smartphone. Here is a stereoscopic 3D overview of the features and capabilities that their device offers and for more details you will of course have to register in their Developer Center.

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