For those of us interested in watching 3-D video but who hate wearing funny-looking glasses — and isn’t that most of us? — some new(ish) technology should impress.
Even those who insist that 3-D has a bright future in entertainment acknowledge that the glasses are a problem. They are expensive and often ugly, and if you already wear glasses, they can be uncomfortable. You need a pair of glasses for each person, a particular challenge when the technology is being pitched as a new way to watch sporting events, often a communal activity.
Toshiba has televisions and a laptop that can display 3-D video without requiring the viewer to put on glasses. One form of the technology — which has been available in Japan for a while — works by using a webcam to find a viewer’s eyes, then sends different versions of the image to each one, creating the illusion of depth. (A shortcoming of this no-glasses approach at this point is that only one person at a time can see the 3-D effect.)
Nintendo is also in the 3-D, zero glasses game. The Japanese video game company did very well with its handheld DS game player, released in 2004. But since then it has had to deal with a new competitor, one that has a lock on millions of pockets: smartphones.
To counter the threat from cheap phone-based games, Nintendo came out with the 3DS, with 3-D features that phones can’t match. But initial sales were so weak when the device came out in 2011 (see, you don’t even remember that, do you?) that Nintendo made an unusually swift and steep price cut, dropping it in August 2011 to $170 from $250. Sales have picked up since then (at the expense of profits), and the 3DS XL, illustrated below, went on sale this summer for about $200, with a larger screen and longer battery life.
One innovative feature of the 3DS is the way it allows game characters to appear in real-world settings as seen through the 3-D camera — and without the funny glasses.