There’s a way to simulate 3D visuals on devices with front-facing cameras. Researchers Jeremie Francone and Lawrence Nigay have proved that with i3D [Free], a brand new app that is available on the App Store right now for the generous price of $0.

Is it a game? No. It’s a proof of concept that uses a device’s front camera to track a user’s head in order to trick their eyes into seeing 3D through ‘a small window.’ But while it has no use as a game, the overall tech shows promise as a middleware tool that could, maybe, grant more adventurous developers the ability to make their own 3D scenes.

The thought that Apple devices, or even other handhelds with front-facing cameras, could someday be able to spit out 3D -- illusion or not -- is an interesting one. Nintendo’s next generation portable, the Nintendo 3DS, is centered on its use of glasses-less 3D. If that hook were to become not so unique, what would be the point of picking up the device?

Zelda and the other gang of first-party games are always compelling reasons to side with a Nintendo product, of course, but without its hook, the 3DS is just a DS with a pricey screen, a charging cradle, and a better stylus.

Let’s say i3D’s tech actually becomes a big-time, licensed tool. What would that mean for developers on the Nintendo e-Shop? Would they even bother releasing their cool and unique games on the 3DS, or would they go to the App Store first?

If not, how quickly could we see ports of these titles land on the App Store at the service’s often rock-bottom prices?

We asked ourselves a similar, though non-3D specific question, upon learning that the e-Shop was delayed until later this June. You just have to wonder, given the history of Nintendo’s support of third-party and also the lackluster reception of its electronic stores, if the 3DS is the actual digital platform studios want to target. Or if it’ll just be a jumping off point like the PSP Minis initiative has proven to be.

Of course, the nuts and bolts of the 3DS’ 3D stuff and i3D are different and probably incompatible... but if i3D is as good as we think it is, then a studio could successfully translate its vision to Apple devices. Should be good for us, at least, presuming this stuff catches on.

[Via Mac Rumors]

  • Lucas

    The thing about the 3Ds is the real 3D, when you look at it from a perfect angle both eyes receive different pictures so your brain let's you see the depth, but here it's still pretty 2D. The difference is that you can change angle to look at things from different points of view (not possible with 3Ds) but it's still 2D...

    This would be great for casual games like jenga but action games need real 3D

    • BLite

      Oh my goodness.  Thank you!  I was starting to think that no one on the planet understood this.  I keep seeing references to this as "glasses free" 3D, and it is nothing of the sort!  It's cool, sure, but it really has nothing to so with "seeing 3D."

    • Anonymous

      This is definitely true BUT this kind of 3D would most certainly work great for FPS type games.  Peaking around a corner would immediately give the feeling of depth.  However, the 3DS can do what i3D is doing since it has cameras facing you and then 1up it with true stereoscopic 3D on the screen.  Only problem is that the 3DS has a very narrow viewing angle and face tracking 3D may permit players to move out of it, ruining the effect.

    • Anonymous

      EA was to feature the same thing on EA/Steven Spielberg's game Boom Blox for the Wii and decided to drop it from the retail game. why? it was pretty useless outside of an excellent tech demo. The only good that came out of this was that Johnny Lee got hired.

      There a Nintendo Dsi game that does the same thing, Rittai Kakushi e Attakoreda...

      interesting game but very very limited.

  • Patch732

    I would like to see a video of this from the perspective of someone watching a person using the app. 

  • Phatbhuda

     A 3D display vs. perspective changes via head tracking are drastically different experiences.

    • Adams Immersive

      Agreed—both cool, both can do unique things the other can’t, but certainly not interchangeable.

    • Christian Meredith

      That all said, while a head tracking pseudo 3d effect like the one demonstrated here doesn't look 3D when holding your head still, when you move the image it does create a fairly realistic effect. Not as realistic as say stereoscopic 3D AND head tracking though, but at least you can "perceive depth" by seeing "around" the object and "how far" it is away from whatever you're looking at. Still nothing like a 3DS though.

  • Cyphercolt

     It doesnt give the feeling that the 3ds or a 3dtv gives you when looking at it, it's very jittery on my ipod touch, shaking a lot i cant see myself gaming with a system like that.

    • Funambulist

      It works great on my iPad 2.

      • Simitakhar

        keyword there being ipad 2 lol... anything works great on an ipad 2.. but yeah this looks cool, i think it would be too hard to develop a whole game around it though 

      • Anonymous

        The problem on my iPhone seems to be that the front camera has a very limited field of view. It's perfect for a video chat, but doesn't leave much freedom to turn the display. The framerate also drops drastically when there is no face in view.

      • Recruit91

        Ive had a slightly worse framerate on my ipod touch (of course, less RAM). Theyre just not powerful enough. Still, besides some dumb 3D CG movie I watched at Six flags 11 years ago, Ive never experienced 3D before, so that was interesting.

  • Stevebfd

    They haven't proven anything this kind of 3D was available on the DSi

  • Slembcke

    Very neat, but even the video they have looks pretty jittery. Also, it's only changing the perspective transformation as you move your head. This is not a stereo 3D effect that gives you that "reach out and touch it" feeling. That said, stereo 3D quickly gives me a headache whether its a movie, red/blue glasses or the 3DS. This is a problem for a lot of people too, though probably not the majority.

    I would like to know how much CPU power this requires, because it's probably a lot of overhead.

  • Jonathan

     Only the bullseye one was anywhere near 3d looking in my trial

  • Metalhead

    I've been waiting for a release. To bad that i don't own the newest hardware. I wouldn't mind if it worked via dragging with my finger instead of that camera-thingy.

    • Anonymous

      I am surprised they didn't do a version that uses the compass and accelerometer.  It could ask you to set the phone directly facing you, hit calibrate, then move the phone instead of your head.  

      • Joe Kukula

        Someone's taken that route already. Search 'Holotoy' on the app store, it's a 3D app that utilizes the accelorometer. I'm surprised no one's mentioned it here, actually, it works better than you'd expect. 

  • Anonymous

     I don't really see 3DS developers trying to use this, with the 3DS your eyes are being tricked into perceiving depth, as if you are actually looking into the screen.

    With the head tracking your brain still perceives 2 dimensions, but if you move your head side to side it will "look" 3 dimensional because the software compensates for your position.

    I think 3D still isn't very useful in general or even specifically in gaming.

    • SMP

      Useful? were talking about video games here... Im being literal, but I dont see why 3D cant be applicable for games. Im of the mindset that 3D is neither a gimmick or a revolution, but an addition. If it adds something, even a minor thing to a few games, Id check it out.

    • Anonymous

      Try playing a racing game (Motorstorm on PS3 for example) in 3D before you make judgements. The extra dimension it adds really puts you into the race.

      • Anonymous

        Most people that say 3D doesn't add to games either can't perceive 3D (eye problems) or haven't tried it.

  • Zach Williams

    Doesn't work very well with me and I'm wondering if it's because I have a beard.

  • Stan Winstone

     Compared to real 3D displays this looks very flat. Sorry but I don't think this will get too far as a technique.

  • Anonymous

    People will still develop for the 3DS, as it will have a gigantic install base soon - probably by the end of the holiday season. As much as I love my iPhone, it isn't suited very well for traditional games. Take SF4, for example. On iPhone, it was an experiment that worked pretty well, but the controls were still somewhat iffy. On 3DS, though, it is (at least in my opinion) as good or better than it is on the 360 or PS3. Certain games work without buttons - but many also do not. Plus, the reasons to buy the 3DS are simple - its 3D is better than this i3D, and there's no other place where you can get Mario, Zelda, Metroid, et al. Nintendo's key franchises consistently produce some of the best video games around, and they aren't coming to Apple devices any time soon.

    • SMP

      Thats the thing. Even if the 3DS and all ipods/ipads used the same 3D displays, I dont think 3DS owners would go "well the ipod has it, screw the EShop", I dont believe that its that adjacent to the App Store. It would come down to whether or not the 3DS E Shop has a large enough install base to begin with, and if there was, developers would support both.

  • Etnor thgirw

     the Bull's eye one was the best looking to me.

  • Taylor Calderone

    If you take away the 3D of the 3DS, it's not the same as a DS with a 'pricey screen and a better stylus'. That's like saying a PS3 without an HDTV is exactly the same as a PS2.

  • boss

    Doesn't work at all on ipod touch 4

    • Ang Shimin

      it worked on mine. Just that the field of view of the front facing camera was not wide enough

  • Klouud

     Very cool.  Who woulda thunk-ded.  We saw something like this with a Cydia tweak to make the springboard icons "look" 3D.  True its not real 3D... but it looks cool.  I don't think the hardware is ready for something as strenuous as this ATM.  Maybe 2012's line of iDevices may be able to handle AAA graphics + this gimmicky 3D.

    Otherwise, its really neat and goes to show that dev's are taking the iDevices seriously when it comes to games - and 3rd party support is everything.



    Looks nice....but damn my beard!! It has trouble recognizing my face..I guess the big spikes are not good for face regognition! 

  • Keslus

     That arm in the video capture looks like something out of Resident Evil.. where's the Apple hand model when you need him??  *projects a spotlight with a hand stencil covering into the heavens*

  • Dthany

    some guy did this with the wii remotes and sensor bar long ago. They must have stole the idea. Search head tracking 3D wii on youtube. Anyway, this isn't even close to real 3D. You don't even see the 3D effect unless you move your head. It's not the same thing.

  • Marl0

     Why is this even being compared to the 3DS? It's not even remotely the same thing. The 3DS gives you REAL glasses-less 3D. As in 3D depth perception. All this is, is head tracking. It's not 3D. Hell, even the DSi had a game that did this same thing way before the 3DS became a reality. 

    • GoodGameGet


      - Kyle

    • DarkWish

      Seriously, this article is ridiculous. It's like comparing apples to oranges... they're both great, but entirely different. There's absolutely nothing new or even comparable to the 3DS here. The best part is... they got their story from MacRumors, but to put their own twist on it, they added in the 3DS comparison. Not good journalism IMO.

      • Random

        Isn't MacRumors owned by the same guy as TA? In which case they didn't take their story from anyone except themselves surely? 

      • Gregglesaurus

        I agree. I really don't like the 'monopolistic' attitude that comes across in this article. Come on, seriously - the console wars are so 90's. I have an iPhone and I have a DS, and I play both.

  • Ben

    Another biased article by TA

  • Glennx

    Sure, it's not stereo 3D but headtracking IS part of making realistic 3D. It's perfectly reasonable to think of this as just as much '3D' as any form of stereo vision. If you ever get the chance to see the two working together you will see what I mean. Of course you will never see them working together on the 3DS because the glasses-free tech makes it impossible to move your head

  • E_Domina

    cool idea, not 3D, but im sure this technology can be improved on and implemented to other apps.

  • Crap App

    This app i3d is a load of crap, probably the biggest waste of technical nonsense to grace my iphone4. Next time, perhaps they should try to make an app that actually works. It's even more pathetic that this trash got a front page mention.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure who's in the same camp, but I find 3D  (with or without glasses)  interesting for about 10 minutes, then it's forgotten.  And now back to Order & Chaos.

  • c0ldb33r

    this is a foolish waste of time. it's neat, but it's irresponsible for touch arcade to compare this to a 3DS.

    I can draw a "3-D" cube on a piece of paper. It's not true 3D. Neither is this.

  • Anon

    This is exactly the same tech demo that was made for the Wii using the Wii Remote as a tracking device (using IR lights for tracking) instead of face recognition. It even still has the Mii's in it! This is nothing new and is absolutely NOT 3D. All this does it tilt 3d items on the normal looking screen based on where your head is... It doesn't pop out of the screen or have any depth... this article (and others like it popping up all over the net) are completely rubbish...

  • Neil

    Only here can headtracking be compared to auto-stereoscopy technology.
    Not only are the two techs completely different in execution but the
    actual application of it on games would be widely different as well.
    Unless you want to be constantly waggling your iDevice in all angles in
    order to get something which actually isn't stereoscopy, it isn't going
    to take
    anything away from the auto-stereoscopy included in the 3DS. To even
    suggest so shows your complete lack of knowledge on head-tracking and
    auto-stereoscopy or your desperation to draw a comparison on a matter
    where such a comparison is completely (perhaps knowingly) unwarranted.
    Either way it does your 'reporting' no favours.

    Also, the 3DS without the unique selling point of 3D is just a DS with a more pricey screen? Troll comment of the week surely.

    • GunBlade1190

      "Also, the 3DS without the unique selling point of 3D is just a DS with a more pricey screen? Troll comment of the week surely."

      Agree whole heartily with this. The main article was pretty awful, but the fact that they said this just shows that they know next to nothing about the 3DS.

      • Christian Meredith

        More like a pocket Gamecube. Heck, almost a pocket Wii in some aspects. The graphics are definitely way better than the PSP though, without 3D, with the exception of some highly detailed PSP games like God Eater Burst and Dissidia Duodecim, but they were made late in the PSP's life vs. the 3DS's current game stock which is still really the release day lot.

  • Jason

    Was actually looking forward to trying this but my god what a let down!

  • Stephen Harrell

    Putting this article on the most popular game resource site (for iOS) on the net with THAT headline is terribly irresponsible. Come on Touch Arcade...there are a lot of younger readers on here and many other people who don't grasp all the details of such tech.  That's very misleading.  The current generation of iOS devices cannot even start to pull off the same 3D techniques that the new Nintendo handheld can.  And believe it or not, most of us don't care.  I certainly don't need that to enjoy my portable gaming.  So there's no point in creating some false illusion that such tech is possibly available to us.

  • HelperMonkey

    I once stared at one of those cross-eyed, colored dot-pattern 3-D posters for fifteen minutes before I could see the hidden image. And that was a better experience than this i3D thing.

  • pup

    Nintendo already did this back in 2010 with a DSiWare game called: "Rittai Kakushi e Attakoreda". 

  • Paulo Falcao

    Works really well with one eye closed.


    PSP's with custom firmware can actually install a plugin that will allow a small list of games (which is being improved with each update) to play back in anaglyph 3d. so get those old school red/blue glasses out and don't waste $250.