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Is 3D the key for video calling?


If 2009 was the year of touch, then 2010 is 3D. Who wants to see Avatar in 2D? Of course 3D movies have been around for years.  The Victorians were keen on stereoscopic images. And from Spy-Kids to Jaws III there have been lots of movies. Sony is planning on adding 3D to the Playstation 3.

Today we are in the hype phase Gartner shows 3D flat panels at the very start and perhaps 3D movies are a little beyond that. So now is the time to cash in on 3D either that or leave it for a bit, past the trough.

There are multiple technologies for 3D. Most use glasses to separate the image to each eye, but one system that does not uses a lenticular  system. Columns of tiny prisms on the screen direct separate images to the left and right eyes. There is a great explanation of the system here.

The limitation of such a system is that it can only be viewed from a limited sweet spot. It's not something a room full of people can share.

The limitation doesn't matter with pocket devices, such as the Fuji 3D camera  or indeed a mobile phone. This isn't new, Sharp had a 3D mobile on sale in Japan six years ago. It had a spectacular screen saver which showed a butterfly flapping its wings.

What limited the usefulness was lack of content, the limited screen resolution – as the resolution is halved by the 3D technology and the processor power to drive it.

Time of course solves the technology problems and phones now have more oomph and more pixels, but content is still going to be an issue.  There is however an untapped potential: video calling.

What if a phone that had a 3D display also had a couple of cameras like the Fuji camera.  A phone that could make 3D video calls? The standard H.263 codec isn't up to the job, but there is an H.264 standard and if the phones had custom hardware for the camera and screen you could have a new codec. What's more it could then make video calls to Skype, and have a 3D display with twin web cams on the PC too.

Mobile phone manufacturers are always looking for a 'stand out' feature. Perhaps this is the one.

Appeal: The tech industry owes Guy Kewney, pioneer IT journalist a lot. Alas he has cancer. If you would like to help make he and Mary Kewney's lives a bit easier then you'll want to know a virtual whip-round is up and running. Guy Kewney is not Guy Goma.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com. Follow me on Twitter here.

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