3-D viewing devices get smaller

While the goal of TV is glasses-free 3-D, it’s coming soon for Apple iPhones and Google Android smart phones. New 3-D personal computers that will use active-shutter glasses are also on the way.

Spatial View is developing an app and hardware solution allowing users to watch glasses-free 3-D stereoscopic movies and images on their iPhones and Android mobiles. The 3DeeCentral app for the iPhone will appear first. It is a portal to an online movie store where users will be able to download content designed to work in conjunction with Spatial View's 3DeeSlide.

The iPhone app has been submitted to Apple for approval, and there’s also an an Android app in development. The 3DeeSlide is a clip-on lenticular lens attachment that works in portrait and landscape modes and also supports touch-through.

The experience, reports Business Insider, is not as compelling as watching 3-D on a larger screen using glasses, but was nonetheless “awesome” and an exciting development for the smart phone segment. However, the 3-D technology may initially be handicapped by limited content on opening.

The app and screen, to debut this fall, is expected to cost less than $20 and will work on the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Screens for the iPhone 4, the iPad and Android devices will become available after the initial launch.

For laptops, HP will soon ship the Envy 17 this fall. It has a 17.3in 3-D Ultra BrightView display and active-shutter glasses. HP chose a solution from AMD’s (ATI) 3-D technology. The Envy 17, like other products, will also support 3-D Blu-ray Discs. Almost all of the brands have announced that their machines will also upconvert 2-D content to 3-D.

Last month, Sony showed a prototype 3-D notebook PC that will ship in spring 2011. Sony's prototype also uses active-shutter glasses, but Sony did not disclose whether it was the NVIDIA, AMD/ATI solution or one from another party. Unlike those currently being shipped, Sony's 3-D notebook PC features a 16in display. Additional brands with 3-D notebook products in development include LG Electronics, MSI and Samsung.

3-D laptops are not new. Both Sharp (Mebius PC-RD3D) and NEC (LaVie S LS900/8E and LaVie RX LR700/8E) launched 3-D notebooks in late 2003 and early 2004. In both the past and present, brands have promoted their products as being ideal for PC gaming.

Brands have also expanded their marketing to enterprise, suggesting that 3-D could be great for oil and gas exploration, CAD/CAM design and modeling, and similar types of activities. The result, according to DisplaySearch, is that sales were disappointing, and the products were removed from the market after just one revision.

What’s different now is far more information about the 3-D market as well as lower street prices for the 3-D PC devices. But it’s still too early to tell whether consumers actually want 3-D laptops.

Since the beginning of the year, less than 100,000 3-D-equipped notebook PCs have been sold in a market of more than 100 million notebooks. That is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total notebook PC market. Still, DisplaySearch said it is still too early to say whether 3-D PCs will be a success or failure.