i3D Brings Simulated 3D to Fourth-Generation iOS Devices

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 25th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The latest display technology craze has been 3D displays - from movie theaters to TVs to Nintendo's latest handheld gaming system, all based on stereoscopic display technology. Of course, this doesn't really mean anything for the vast majority of display devices out there - iOS devices contain absolutely no way to display three-dimensional images. However, a couple of developers have come up with a neat tech demo that mimics 3D display technology on iOS devices.

This app, entitled i3D, does not work on all iOS devices - it requires a device with a front-facing camera, namely the iPhone 4, iPod touch 4th Generation, and iPad 2. The app uses facial recognition technology to track where the user's face is, then offers five demos to show off a simulated 3D effect. See, as the user moves their device around, the app tracks where the device is relative to their face, and moves the image around to make it appear as if an object is actually moving around in three-dimensional space, while it is actually just an image on a traditional 2D screen. This optical illusion of sorts is more convincing when the device is farther away from the user's face, as there is more room to maneuver the device around, in order to make the images of the five available demos appear to move around more, and to pop out of the screen more.

This isn't the very first implementation of this kind of head tracking - Johnny Chung Lee rigged up a similar demo, by using the camera in the Wii Remote to detect two infrared points attached to a user's head. This is more advanced, in the sense that the only requirement is a front-facing camera, and software handles the head tracking automatically. The question is how this could be implemented in a practical sense - could this be used to make a game appear to be 3D without the need for an iOS device with a 3D screen, or without having any kind of external accessory to create the 3D effect. i3D from Jeremie Francone and Laurence Nigay is available for free from the App Store.