Still wonder how soon 3D technology will reach end users everywhere? 3D smartphones have been launched into the market this month in Japan. A week ago we bought a Sharp glasses-free 3D Android smartphone, released earlier this month on the 3rd, 2010 by NTT Docomo. There are currently two such phones available here: one model for the provider Docomo (Lynx 3D SH-03C) and the other for Softbank (003SH), both made by Sharp. Let’s take a quick look at the phone I have (SH-03C in white):
– Size and weight: 123(H)x62(W)x13.4(D)mm, 140g
– Display: 3.8-inch of ASV touchscreen, 480×800 QVGA resolution, 3D: Parallax Barrier type
– Camera: ONE CCD camera, 9.6 megapixel (It does support 3D shooting, but how? We will get there soon.)
– OS: Android 2.1 (not the latest version 2.3)
Why I chose this phone? First of all, as I mentioned in the previous post about my interests in 3D, I had no doubt to get this phone right after we played around with it in Bic Camera (a top 5 CE retailer in Japan). The 3D effect is good (and cool!), with okay user experience in general. It’s not just a phone with a 3D display, but includes many more features. Second, a smart phone with a touch screen is much easier to use for a foreigner like me. Moreover, I don’t mind switching from iPhone to Android :) Third, the weird thing in Japan is, smart phones are generally at more reasonable price than those Japanese specialized high-end foldable phones, because of the promotion. This phone itself is about 33,000 JPY with a 2-year contract. According to the Bic Camera staff, this phone has hit about half of the sales this month for Docomo. Quite impressive.
Note: This is NOT a paid advertisement.
I’m going to introduce this phone from three aspects: its 3D display & UI, the 3D shooting, and other 3D apps.
I) Display & UI:
The Sharp Lynx 3D SH-03C phone uses parallax barrier display, similar to other available 3D products like Nintendo 3DS, what I already have – Fujifilm 3D camera (FinePix REAL 3D W1) and the photo frame (FinePix REAL 3D V1), or the Philips 3D TV I saw in Spain last year (which brought pretty good effect with some videos). I don’t find the 3D effect too different from these products, but I have to say, you probably won’t want to look at these screens always in the 3D mode. Your eyes will get sore easily and it’s hard to maintain your position to view.
What is a parallax barrier display? It is one of the several ways to achieve autostereoscopy, which is “any method of displaying stereoscopic (3D) images without the use of special headgear or glasses on the part of the viewer“ (Wikipedia). The idea of the parallax barrier design is to “consist of a layer of material with a series of precision slits, allowing each eye to see a different set of pixels, so creating a sense of depth” (Wikpedia); see the below illustration from Fujifilm. In this way, our brain will create a 3D-like image based on the slightly different 2 images we perceive from our two different eyes, but this also indicates we must position ourselves to see the redirected imagery.
That is also why you will see 2 similar images in the following screenshots that I took from the phone, if in the 3D mode (Check my another post if you want to know how I captured using Android SDK). Moreover, some applications allow you to adjust the 3D effects by changing the image difference based on this rationale.
The default user interface of this phone is in the 2D mode:
If you rotate the screen, the menu will be automatically changed to 3D (just to make a feeling of app icons floating on the phone screen):
The touch screen itself is as good as iPhone’s to me, but I’m not satisfied with its touch responsiveness and speed.
There is a list of built-in 3D short video clips, mostly without a story to tell but only CG animation (dinosaurs, polygons) or nature views (deep ocean dive). Most of the videos show really great 3D effect; you will love it. Here is the screenshot of a Tron-like video called “Polygon Human evolution”. See the little icon in the left-top corner? You can always change the video/photograph into the 2D mode.
II) 3D shooting
As a 3D phone, for sure it is important to capture 3D images. Unlike the Fujifilm 3D camera with 2 lenses that capture images at the same time, this phone contains only one built-in CCD lens. So how does it generate 3D photographs?
You will see the instruction below when you launch 3D shooting: at first you take one shot (to create the LEFT image), move the entire phone to the right, and the phone will automatically take the second shot (the RIGHT image) for you.
The result photo:
To adjust the 3D effect:
From the 3D display, the result photo is not too bad. However, it’s not easy to take both images clear to create a vivid photo, not to mention shooting human characters or moving objects. Consider getting a specialized 3D camera or camcorder if you aim to shoot more professional 3D media.
III) 3D apps
Mobile TV: In Japan, you can easily watch (free) mobile TV with your compatible handheld devices. There are about 9 available channels, including NHK, TV Tokyo, TBS, etc. This 3D phone also allows you to watch “3D TV” in real-time, probably by creating shift images (detailed TBC). However, the effect is not good to me. Because the source is in 2D, I can’t tell the depth except the floating subtitles.
There are several interesting built-in 3D apps. In addition to games, I kind of like this (very girlish) cake-making app called “Happy Decoration”. This should be something special if you want to celebrate a friend’s birthday in a party.
From next February, the mobile payment service “iD” will be enabled when the according software is ready.
Okay, that’s it! about this 3D phone. You may wonder: if this phone is available in the market of your country, should you get one? Besides the cool 3D features, I’d say this is still a good Android phone, though there are some UI design problems that iPhone does a much better job. However, this will be a great choice especially if you’d love to embrace the 3D technology. Let me know if you want to know about anything else.
Btw, recently I’m reading a book about 3D filmmaking. Well, it’s more complex than what I thought. I’ll find some time to share my observation. Also, I believe interaction with 3D displays will be redesigned in the near future. It’s not really intuitive that you see a 3D object or icon but manipulate through “touching” a flat screen. Approximate sensors or cameras that enable (Minority-report-like) gesture interaction in the air may be a better option especially for large 3D screens. Just some quick thoughts. Any comments are welcome.
Related videos/news about the phone:
Note: This is NOT a paid advertisement.