Nintendo 3DS: Impressions from OFH's autostereo engineer

Published by Optics for Hire.


I just returned from the neighborhood Best Buy, where I finally tried the Nintendo 3DS. I simultaneously feel like the first kid on the block and the last kid on the block, seeing as how it’s only now available in the US, and my field-of-interest has long been stereoscopy.

Environmental and Retail Conditions

  • Best Buy store in Burlington, MA; bright, overhead fluorescent lighting

  • 3DS tethered to a strong, heavy pullchain that let me get about 10” (25 cm) away

  • The 3DS’s point-of-sale setup included: a large flatscreen display, presumably for a promotional video but today as on previous visits was black except for some error messages bouncing around, several 3DS systems still in inventory available for purchase, and one pre-loaded game on the demo 3DS

  • Pilotwings Resort 3DS

  • About 5-10 minutes of playing, ahead of other people who wanted a turn, and getting tired yanking on the security pull-chain


  • Not only does the 3D look good, the gameplay and system design are up to Nintendo’s usual excellent standards. I found myself competing between a desire to just enjoy the game, and “be scientific” about analyzing the imagery

  • The 3D slider adjusts stereo disparity. Muting 3D makes disparity = 0.

  • I found the 3D very compelling for the flight simulator. I perceived about 1 inch of depth beyond the display, and maybe 0.5 inch in front. The game relied primarily on positive horizontal disparity (“far” depth), and this looked, for lack of a more expressive word, really great.

  • I continue to agree that handheld applications of 2-view autostereo (like the 3DS) are best, for now, because you automatically orient the screen properly.

  • The 3D effect added realism, excitement, and playability to the flight simulator game - these were diminished greatly in 2D mode.

  • Aside from 3D, the Nintendo 3DS has a range of improvements over prior DS systems: the screen is brighter, there is an analog controller, there are multiple cameras, internal sensors, etc.

General Comments

  • It was worth my time to seek out a 3DS to try. I don’t know how people who aren’t autostereo engineers will feel about it - I tried to see if the next people in line were squinting and struggling or not, but couldn’t.

  • The US$250 price is steep for me. This is on par with advanced systems like the PS3 or XBOX. At US$150 it would be more of a no-brainer.

  • I think that the industrial design is spot-on in this first release of the 3DS, unlike the initial release of the DS, which was chunky and dim.

Enthusiastically guest-blogging,