ORLANDO, Fla.—I think the first movie I ever saw in 3D was Jaws and of course, we all remember those funky red and blue disposable glasses. That was a completely different technology than what we’re seeing on a handful of smartphones and tablets at CTIA Wireless. These fancy new devices don’t even need glasses.
I just took a gander at LG’s Optimus 3D down on the show floor and admit that I was impressed by the effect. Apparently there’s thousands of tiny mirrors in that display that give both stills and video the illusion of depth. That’s cool.
You can understand why Android OEMs have rushed to get this technology to market, riding as they are on the heels of flat-panel 3D hype that seems to be everywhere you look these days. It’s a technology that could be a major differentiator for OEMs struggling to make their devices stand out from the pack by way of something other than a UI overlay.
I’m kind of neutral on having 3D on my smartphone, which leads me to wonder if it’s enough of a must-have for enough people to make it an effective differentiator. I’m of the take-it-or-leave-it-but-don’t-expect-me-to-pay-extra-for-it mentality. Who knows though? Peer pressure does funny things to people when it comes to technology. Lord knows I probably didn’t absolutely have to have a Nook Color, but after seeing all the contented people unburdened of page-turning strain, I finally broke down. Maybe I’ll have a similar change of heart with 3D.
This is just the beginning of a long obsession the electronics industry has had with realizing holograms. Ever since R2D2 projected Princess Leah’s distress message for Luke in Star Wars The New Hope, device manufacturers of all stripes have been trying to make that little piece of sci-fi a reality, but why? Could it be just for the heck of it?
Perhaps I’m thinking too hard about this one. Maybe 3D on a smartphone is one of those things that’s just supposed to be entertaining. An extra dimension can only add to the fun, right? And can’t entertainment alone serve as a solid, marketable differentiator?
I forget that the next generation of smartphone owners, those who have grown up on the Nintendo DS and their parent’s iPhones, expect the devices in their lives to be not only useful but also provide hours of entertainment and distraction.
Pontification aside, if your boss gives you any kind of break at CTIA (or if you happen to be the boss), I strongly suggest you loosen your tie, grab an iced tea and hit up one of those OEM booths that are displaying a glasses-free 3D smartphone or tablet. Think entertainment, not practicality; it’s a huge part of the show – and one that’s all too easy to forget amid the hustle and bustle.