Google Redefines the Meaning of Mobile 3D

by Matt Klassen on February 7, 2011

What do you think of when you hear the terms “holographic” and “3D”? Perhaps like many technophiles around the world you quickly recall any numbers of scenes from the Star Wars saga, where images like the wrinkled and brooding face of the Emperor or a pleading and terrified Princess Leia appeared instantly before you; holographic communications technology at its finest.

So you can’t blame the technology world for being a little confused about Google’s repeated use of the terms “holographic interface” and “3D capabilities” when describing the newest features of Android v3.0, codenamed Honeycomb. Are we really at a time when such communication is possible?

The question becomes, has modern mobile communications finally caught up to George Lucas’ Star Wars fantasy, is true 3D telepresence a reality, or has Google embraced a postmodern redefinition of language, simply altering what words like “holographic” and “3D” really mean to fit its marketing scheme?

Let’s get one thing straight off the top; it won’t be long before we’re communicating with real time 3D holograms of our friends, as true 3D telepresence communication technology is probably only five to ten years away. But while 3D mobile technology is not far over the horizon, it’s not in view yet, meaning that whatever holographic or 3D capabilities Google claims Honeycomb has, it clearly understands those terms differently than the general public does.

From early reports and from what I’ve seen of Honeycomb, at least as its represented in Google’s new Maps 5 mobile app, the mobile OS uses a new 3D graphics engine called “Renderscript” to produce richly textured and layered images. At its best some might call what Google offers with its “Renderscript” engine a quasi-3D image, but for me it’s nothing more than richly textured 2D images; nothing jumps off the screen, nothing is actually three dimensional.

While a closer, hands-on look will be needed to really determine Honeycomb’s 3D and holographic capabilities, if Google Maps 5 is any indication, 3D technology still has a long way to come before I would even feel comfortable calling it 3D.

So if this richly textured 2D rendering is really all that Honeycomb offers, how can Google get away with such blatant false advertising? In my mind, the term 3D, like wireless network terms like 3G and 4G, has no clearly defined meaning.

With no authoritative governing body that enforces its definition and a clearly undiscerning public who believes the marketing hype, the likes of Google, Verizon, and AT&T can say whatever they want about their products, regardless of the veracity of their claims, the only question left is whether or not you believe them.

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