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i3D app appears, along with rumors of a 3-D iPad

A newly available 3-D app for iOS devices — like Apple’s iPad and iPhone — uses Head-Coupled Perspective (HCP) technology to create an amazing 3-D image without special glasses.

The trick is that the front camera of the device is used to track the face of the user in real time. This information tells the app how the user is looking at the display. The new “i3D” app, which is free, updates the perspective of the 3-D scene accordingly, giving the user the illusion that he’s looking at a small window.

i3D contains several preloaded 3-D scenes that users can view with HCP. It relies on face tracking and does not use the accelerometers or gyroscopes (often used to simulate 3-D effects). Also, the face tracking system does not detect and track the face in every lighting condition.

HCP does not create a true stereoscopic view, but provides a kind of monocular 3-D display whereby the same picture (and resolution) is seen by both eyes. In the future, some say it might be combined with a stereoscopic display and provide a better 3-D effect.

Jeremie Francone and Laurence Nigay, at the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction Research Group of the Grenoble Informatics Laboratory at University Joseph Fourier in France, developed the i3D application.

While the i3D app brings a taste of 3-D to Apple’s products today, a rumor claims that Apple is focusing the third-generation iPad on 3-D. A woman billed as a movie industry insider has claimed it is a “dead cert” and that studios were supposedly preparing 3-D movies and other content for iTunes.

Multiple sources from Foxconn, where the iPad is being built, were supposedly corroborating leaks of early production plans.

The details of how it would work weren’t available. Apple usually only adopts technology if it believes the technology can be kept simple and would very likely reject any plan requiring glasses, just as it rejected the need for pen input on the iPhone.