The Coming of 3D Mobile Technology

by Matt Klassen on January 25, 2011

Back in November writers here at TheTelecomblog speculated that the next trend in mobile devices would be the emergence of 3D technology. While several of the writers here were sceptical about this seemingly dubious and unnecessary addition to mobile devices, it looks like next month’s annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, will feature several new devices sporting advanced 3D hardware, with chipset maker Nvidia leading the charge.                       

While there’s little question that 3D television technology is currently little more than a niche market, Nvidia is hoping that several key differences in the mobile market will allow for a more rapid adoption of 3D technology, thus making mobile devices the true frontrunner in developing long-term consumer interest in advanced 3D tech.

But as our writers have asked before, do we really need 3D technology on our mobile devices? Whether we need it or not, it looks like we’ll have said technology in our hands before the end of the year. 

While mobile devices are quickly becoming people’s default piece of computing technology, used for business, communication, and pleasure, I have always struggled to see the long-term use for 3D technology in the mobile market.

For those companies like Nvidia who are actively developing the technology, however, its usage is clearly twofold: First, 3D technology will be a sought after feature for videos and other mobile visual media, as consumers are apparently increasingly wanting to view videos on the annoyingly small screens of their mobile devices.

Second, as mobile manufacturers, chip makers, and software developers look to the future of the mobile market, its clear that gaming—and by that I mean real gaming, not your highly addictive, play-it-while-sitting-on-the-toilet Angry Birds kind of gaming—is the wave of the future, and what better way to develop serious consumer interest in mobile gaming than to utilize 3D technology?

But as video processors develop—in addition to having a 3D processor on the docket, Nvidia also will unveil a quad core mobile processor—as consumer demand increases for powerful, do-everything mobile devices, the question remains, will the rest of the mobile market be able to keep pace? When your smartphone becomes as powerful as your laptop, will battery life be even more of an issue? What about overheating?

Beyond the question of device capabilities, however, lies the question regarding the mobile 3D technology itself, something that is still very much in its infancy. To date, such 3D mobile experiments have been decidedly underwhelming, suffering from issues like the parallax barrier, a no-glasses 3D rendering method that while offering a textured 3D image, only does so when looking at the device from a very particular angle.

Regardless of these issues, however–most of which analysts are confident will be overcome–the high device turn over rate in the mobile market means that consumers will be more likely to buy a 3D mobile device than say a new 3D TV. So come Christmas 2011 we may see the first fully functional consumer-ready 3D mobile devices hit the market. The only question that remains is whether or not anyone will buy them.

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