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Use Your Illusion

Nintendo’s new pocket-size gaming device puts 3-D in the palm of your hand.

Author Tom Samiljan Illustration Shawn Wolfe

LIKE IT OR NOT, the 3-D revolution will be televised, whether via Blu-ray discs of Avatar, ESPN broadcasts on DirecTV or your PlayStation 3. New laptops from Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard are also going 3-D. And soon you’ll have the technology in the palm of your hand, in the form of the remarkable new Nintendo 3DS, a 3-D image–generating version of the Japanese gaming giant’s popular portable console, due in stores this year.

Unlike some TV-based three- dimensional experiences, which basically use 1950s-era technology, the 3DS is a modern wonder: small but stunning, with eye-popping depth of field. Best of all, you don’t even need special glasses to appreciate it.

One of the handheld’s most compelling features is a slider (similar to a volume control) that allows you to instantly adjust the level of 3-D, in case you’re feeling a little…out of your depth. But the 3DS does more than gaming. It can also take and display 3-D stills, thanks to three different built-in cameras, as well as show 3-D movies from Disney, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks.

That said, the image itself doesn’t look like much of an upgrade beyond those 3-D stills we’ve all known and loved since childhood (you know, the ones they gave out in Cracker Jack boxes). And as with other home 3-D offerings, the screen must be viewed straight on for the effect to be visible. Tilt the device in your hand even slightly—a common occurrence in the twitchfest that is gaming—and your entire perspective on the screen changes.

Hardcore thumb jockeys aren’t quite sold on the technology just yet. “Gaming at the highest level is about precision,” says Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of Major League Gaming, a professional gaming league. “I think it’ll take a couple of interactive evolutions before 3-D games are solid enough for serious folks to play competitively.” Those serious folks are a tough audience. We all remember how they scoffed at Nintendo’s last great innovation, a little thing called the Wii, which remains the best-selling game console on the market.

Tech writer TOM SAMILJAN might just sit out this latest innovation and wait for 4-D.

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