One of the biggest problems with 3-D technology is the troublesome glasses and the problems they can create with image quality. Researchers have demonstrated a method for making a regular iPad display 3-D content while using only the standard iPad screen, no special glasses needed.
The video above demonstrates how this is done: The onboard camera recognizes and tracks a user's face and adjusts the way objects are displayed on the screen to give the image a sense of depth. It works well enough that it can track a user's head in real time and adjust the image fast enough to make it appear that objects on the screen have three dimensions.
This removes the problem of wearing glasses while also alleviating the "screen door" effect and other image quality problems that 3-D TVs inevitably have. Recently announced 3-D smartphones such as the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC EVO 3D have glasses-free 3-D, but they require a special parallax screen in the display that can distort images and cause ghosting. The beauty of this iPad demonstration is that it's all done with hardware that's already built into the iPad.
The group behind the project, Engineering Human-Computer Interaction, demonstrates how this development, called Head-Coupled Perspective, can even lead to 3-D user interfaces that present different icons based on how the iPad is being held. And because it reacts like a real three-dimensional object, navigating is intuitive.
This isn't the first time that head-tracking has been used to create a 3-D experience. Johnny Chung-Lee, who works for Google, demonstrated a similar setup in 2007 with the Nintendo Wii (see video below). The exciting part about this iPad development is that the technology to accomplish this is already built into consumer mobile devices. With mobile processors becoming increasing capable of handling heavy graphics tasks, developers can create an array of apps and interfaces that can take advantage of the technology.