Nintendo patents device allowing 3D viewing on 2D display

An image from Nintendo’s patent shows a proposal to track users gaze and provide 3D images.Nintendo has filed a patent with the US patent office for a device that “enables 3D viewing on conventional 2D displays such as home television sets by tracking a person’s viewpoint”.

As opposed to conventional stereoscopic 3D that sends a different image to each eye to make elements of an image appear to “pop out” (as in a 3D movie), Nintendo’s proposed system would employ gaze-tracking technology to alter the movement and appearance of 3D-modelled objects, giving the impression that the objects within a game or 3D animation occupied real space stretching back into the distance.

Users could manipulate the images while using the hypothetical device by moving their head to get a different view, the patent says, which could also provide “collision-related game logic benefits” such as allowing a gamer to dodge projectiles. In-game characters could also be programmed to meet a gamer’s gaze, or lose sight of them if the user ducked behind cover.

The patent goes on to give a long list of examples of other immersion-inducing technologies that could be integrated into such a device, which may give some insight into where the Japanese gaming company sees the future of gaming peripherals heading.

“Smell is a very strong sense. There may be some ways to produce aromas for a very strong experience”, states the patent, which also mentions artificial wind (possibly akin to tactile air technology, in development over at Disney), localised climate control, the projection of light around the television to simulate peripheral vision and “brain wave detection … eye movement [detection], heart rate monitor or the like” that could be integrated into goggles and provide game developers with an idea of the user’s emotional state.

While gaming contemporaries Sony and Microsoft are pouring resources into virtual reality, legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto is on the record as saying Nintendo will find alternatives to increasing immersion for home console gamers, telling Time they believe in people being able to enjoy games inclusively rather than “one person putting on some goggles and playing by themselves kind of over in a corner”.

The proposed device, while supposedly only following one user at a time, would provide the benefit of allowing anybody else in the room to view the images, and would even allow those without stereoscopic vision to play.

Of course a patent is no guarantee a final product will ever be released. Microsoft last year showed off a prototype projector that could fill a room with interactive images, while Nintendo itself was experimenting with augmenting displays as early as 2000, when they developed but ultimately scrapped a device that would allow their GameCube console to output stereoscopic images.

The company released their first stereoscopic device back in 1995 with the ill-fated Virtual Boy portable system, a set of goggles on a tripod infamous for its nausea-inducing black and red images, which was discontinued a year later. Their current portable system, the 3DS, can provide stereoscopic 3D without the user wearing any headgear at all, and is proving much more successful.

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