By >Akihabara News Team
[Hands On] Sharp’s 3D Smartphones, the Future is now in your pocket!
Sharp held a press conference for its new cell phones and mobile devices today at Tokyo Midtown, in Akasaka, Tokyo. The main presentation primarily introduced their five smartphones on the three cell carriers here in Japan, and their product display consisted of a grand total of the five smartphones, twelve models of featurephones, a 3G e-book reader on NTT Docomo, and the two Galapagos tablets already outed at their September 27 event.
Although all of these products were seen before at press conferences of the various carriers and at individual product press conferences by Sharp themselves, this is the first time all of their new phones come together under the same roof for a cross-section look at all their products. Chief among these is the five smartphones announced at various times over the last month: the IS03 and IS05 on au, LYNX SH-03C on NTT Docomo, and 003SH and 005SH Galapagos models on SoftBank.
Of these, the LYNX and Galapagos smartphones share the special distinction of being the first smartphones with glasses-less 3D displays in the world, which Sharp hopes will help usher in a new age of 3D media and games for the smartphone platform. I was able to play around with the two models today; here’s what I think.
Three-dimensional display technologies usually rely on big, bulky shutter glasses that block out every other frame on a screen, projecting images for the left eye and then the right eye and then the left eye and then the right eye and so on, really really fast; the difference in the images that the eyes see result in the brain seeing stereoscopically, which is what gives 3D displays the 3D effect (and the brain a headache).
Sharp has done the impossible (and that makes them mighty) by taking out the need for shutter glasses, which would be mighty uncomfortable and awkward to wear and use and carry around with a cell phone: a parallax barrier blocks vertical slits of the TFT display behind it, which results in different images reaching each eye: the digital and more high-tech version of the morphing-image postcards sold in souvenir shops. Even better, the barrier, which Sharp calls the “switch LCD”, can be turned off on-the-fly for regular, less-headachey 2D viewing, as well. This same technology is rumored to be going into Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS, which will appear in stores in Japan in February next year.
One drawback of this technology is that the eyes need to be a certain distance away from the screen in order for the angles of the stereoscopic effect to work: about thirty centimeters (eleven inches), a spokesperson at the product display told me. That also means photos and movies can’t be shown to more than one person at a time (the way young people crowd around phones to review a group shot that was just taken); and with such a stringent positioning requirement for the phone (or the head), casual viewing – say, curled up on a couch, lying down in a bed, or even sitting in a train – may result in misaligned stereoscopy or aching arms. Thankfully, the screen does have the instant-switch-to-2D capability for web browsing, one-seg, 2D photos, and headache relief.
I watched an anime character dancing oddly in a computer-generated environment, dolphins swimming in clear blue water, fish swimming through a coral reef, and still shots of various ocean vistas on the two smartphones. The small screen didn’t really detract from the amazing three-dimensional imagery, and the dolphin turning around and playfully swimming straight at me almost made me want to reach out and touch it. Additionally, the home screen can be switched to 3D mode, making the icons pop out away from the wallpaper to float enticingly at the user – a useless gimmick, yes, but aesthetically intriguing and bound to be a conversation starter in bars for at least six months. The shorts I watched weren’t nearly long enough to give me the Three-Dimensional Headache experience (“More Depth Than Two-Dimensional Headaches! Try Now!”), but I do worry for consumers of the promised upcoming full feature-length flicks and games to be made available as 3D content on these phones.
I may actually consider getting one of these phones when my current two-year contract is up. It’s possible the 3D features will just be forgotten extras within two weeks (like the Voice Control feature on my current mobile) but right now, it’s a new, amazing technology, with untold possibilities it may bring. I may start a new section in my sporadic faux-art collection titled “Stereoscopy”, right next to “Tilt-Shift” and “HDR”.