Mar 262011
Blue Nintendo 3DS on display in Nintendo booth...

Image via Wikipedia

Nintendo’s new 3DS device is quite literally like nothing you have seen before.

Have you ever watched full-motion 3-D video without wearing those annoying special glasses? Didn’t think so. With the 3DS, set to makes its debut on Sunday, you will.

In the guise of a hand-held game machine that costs about $250, Nintendo has produced a most astonishing entertainment device. In an age of technical wonders, Nintendo’s only competition in innovating personal electronics is Apple.

Though the DS has sold substantially more units than theiPhone (about 145 million DS’s worldwide by the end of last year, to about 90 million iPhones), it generally eludes the attention of the technology and media elite because so many of its users are children.

That will change very quickly now. Just about every child in America who likes video games is going to want a 3DS; the clamor will reach a fever pitch this weekend and will continue straight through the summer and into the holiday season. And millions of adults, who previously paid little attention to their kids’ game machines, are going to look at it just once and say, “Wow.”

The 3DS (and 3-D television) simply feels different from 3-D movies. In a movie theater the 3-D effect often brings the sensation that things on the screen are coming at you. Like many viewers, I often find that distracting and unnatural.

On the 3DS and in 3-D television, the effect is more that of depth, as if the screen were a window into a reality where your eyes could perceive the depth and relative position of objects. The big difference, of course, is that with 3-D television, as at the movies, you have to wear special glasses, which no one really wants to do for hours on end.

Nintendo has engineered a way for the screen essentially to beam out those separate images for each eye without the viewer’s needing any special eyewear or headgear. You look into the 3-D top screen on the DS, and it’s like watching a moving hologram that is under your control. It is simply magical. (See the sidebar for details on actual game experiences.)

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