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Science project: dissecting a 3D smartphone | Humans Invent

July 4, 2012

3D expert Jonathan Mather from Sharp Labs deconstructs a 3D smartphone.

Undercover tech: Inside a 3D smartphone – By Nigel Brown

In terms of technology per cubic inch smartphones are one of the most advanced and intricate devices humans use on a daily basis. A recent research paper predicted that by 2016 1 billion people across the planet will own smartphones – just imagine all those simultaneous tiny calculations every second across the world. But what technology makes those possible? Have you ever looked under the bonnet of a smartphone? And not just any smartphone, but a 3D smartphone.

The Wide Angle 3D App

“When we were looking at why people would want a 3D phone and looking at what people would want to do with it, we found photography and video were the two main disciplines,” app developer John Nonweiler from Sharp Labs explains. “We then thought, ‘how can we make this a richer experience?’ The 2D panorama apps have been very popular, so we thought with our 3D expertise we could surely create a fulfilling and useful application for a 3D smartphone.

“We found there is an open-source computer vision library that we could use which has been ported to android. This is called Open CV and makes it possible to do very complex image processing without a massive team. We made it work, tried it out and found it really useful. It is something that has to be played with and ultimately seen to be believed.”

3D under the knife

Visiting Sharp Laboratories Europe in Oxford, resident 3D specialist Jonathan Mather deconstructed a Sharp SH-12C smartphone for Humans Invent, exposing its insides from the 3D camera and speaker to micro electronics, the circuit board, microphone and LCD display.

“A 3D smartphone has a special display hardware that enables images to appear with depth, with objects appearing to jump out of the display” Mather explains. “This means that when a user watches some sport, or plays a game the images can look that little bit more realistic. 3D smartphones also come with special 3D camera hardware (just as we have two eyes to help us perceive depth, the smartphone has two cameras to allow depth to be recorded). That means holiday photos can be shown to friends in full 3D glory using the phones display or perhaps a 3D Aquos TV.”

While there are some cynics, the possibilities of a mobile 3D future are exciting, with the technology just one step away from realizing an immersive 3D experience.

A 3D smartphone future

“The 3D features of a smartphone should ultimately make it a more natural device to use,” Mather explains. “With this aim you would hope that you could see images in 3D, to record them in 3D and to interact in 3D. Most people say that the quality of the images from today’s 3D smartphones is excellent but you do have to be viewing on axis. In the future we want these displays to function naturally – viewable from any angle.

“Touch technology is an area that is likely to see more development, and this could help 3D interaction. It is possible with some technology to identify and touch the object appearing in front of the display, and I have seen many more futuristic prototypes that give feedback enabling you to feel the 3D objects being displayed. However, the problem is scale; once minimized we will be one step closer to a fully immersive mobile 3D experience.”

Take a look inside a 3D smartphone

1. Two cameras included for 3D photography.

2. The speaker.

3. The motor that spins off the centre weight to make the phone vibrate.

4. The camera button.

1. Additions to the data storage and image processing units which enable the 3D data to be processed. Twice as much data comes from the cameras and so the phone needs to have twice the data transfer rate and twice the storage. Additional image processing is used to ensure that the images from the cameras are well matched. If the left and right cameras are out of alignment (not pointing in exactly the same direction) then the image processing will compensate for this. This ensures that on viewing your brain will not feel as though your eyes are out of alignment.

2. The main microprocessor area.

3. 3D display which makes use of a switchable parallax barrier.

4. Additions to the display chip to enable 3D images to be shown. The stereo images (one for the left eye, one for the right eye) must be interlaced ready for the 3D display, and extra image processing is performed to give the best possible 3D image resolution.

Original article here.

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One Comment
  1. Ben Dolphin permalink

    Thank you for the BIO-Tech Dissection Mark

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