Nintendo 3DS Review

Yes I hear you, why am I reviewing a game player that has traditionally be designed for 7 to 10 year old kids. It’s not that I expect you to want one, although you may want to buy one for your kid. What excited me about the Nintendo 3DS is the new 3D display technology that doesn’t require special eyeglasses. In the past year we have seen a dramatic growth in 3D entertainment from kids animated movies like Toy Story 3, to full feature productions such as Avatar. Every major television producer has now introduced at 3D television for your home. The one thing in common with the current generation of 3D entertainment is the need to wear special glasses.

Back to why I’m writing this article. Many years ago I read a technical article talking about 3D display technology that didn’t require special eyeglasses. With the growing popularity of 3D over the past year, I’ve wondered what ever happened to that technology. Did it die, or would it ever reach commercial products? Well it is alive and well, and living in the new Nintendo 3DS. Hopefully this will be the first of many new devices using this 3D display technology. Maybe someday, even our big-screen HD televisions will provide 3D without glasses.

What’s Behind 3D without Glasses?

The Nintendo 3DS uses autostereoscopy to display 3D images without needing special eyeglasses. From the normal viewing position in front of the display, the user will perceive different images with each eye, providing the illusion of 3D.

This 3D technology has existed in research environments since the 1980’s, but is just reaching commercial products. Although I haven’t seen any details on the Nintendo design, it appears to use parallax barrier technology. In this design, a micro-level barrier or mask sits in front of the LCD display. Since each eye is looking at the LCD display from a slightly different angle, the mask causes the viewer to see a different sets of pixel columns with each eye. This allows the device to display two different images, one seen by each eye. The brain processes these two stereoscopic pictures as it would normal 3D vision, but in this case, it provides an illusion of 3D.

The 3DS has a slider for adjusting the slots in the mask to compensate for different spacing between each user’s eyes. This allows the user to fine tune the mask for optimal 3D viewing, or to remove the 3D effect completely. Okay, enough on the technology.

3DS Features

The Nintendo 3DS has a 3.53-inch widescreen LCD display with an 800×240 pixel resolution (400 pixels are allocated for each eye to enable 3D viewing). It also has a 3.02-inch LCD with 320×240 pixel resolution with a touch screen. It has one inner camera and two outer cameras with 640×480 (0.3 Mega) pixel resolution. The two outer cameras can be used to take 3D pictures.

The 3DS supports wireless communications allowing multiple Nintendo 3DS systems to communicate and play multiuser games via WiFi. The wireless connection can also be used to access the Internet. It provides a wide variety of game controls including a touch screen with stylus, embedded microphone, A/B/X/Y face buttons, + Control Pad, L/R buttons, Start and Select buttons, “Slide Pad” that allows 360-degree analog input, one inner camera, two outer cameras, motion sensor and a gyro sensor.

The 3DS also has a port that accepts both Nintendo 3DS and DS game cards, an SD memory card slot, an AC adapter connector, a charging cradle terminal, and a stereo headphone output jack.

3DS Games

Nintendo provides a wide selection of games specifically designed for the 3DS. These include: Kid Icarus, Mario Kart, nintendogs, PilotWings Resort, Animal Crossing, StarFox 64 3D, Steel Diver, and Paper Mario.

There are also many 3rd party games available for the 3DS including: DJ Hero 3D, Resident Evil Revelations, The Sims, Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, Ridge Racer, Kingdom Hearts, Dead or Alive 3D, Samurai Warriors 3D, and Battle of the Giants.

The Bottom Line

Very cool technology. However, would I really play with one? Maybe if my kids had one. As in previous DS models this is a small hand-held game that seems more ideal for a kid trapped in the back seat of your car during a long road trip. Its portability is a key feature. If you don’t currently carry around a Nintendo DS with you, then you probably won’t carry around a 3DS either.

For more information on the Nintendo 3DS, see the Nintendo 3DS Web Site.

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