Motion controls + 3D: Nintendo 3Disconnect?

The forthcoming Nintendo 3DS has a huge number of intriguing features, but a few of them just don't seem to mix easily.

Will tilting and 3D work?
Will tilting and 3D work? Sarah Tew/CNET

My hands-on impressions of the Nintendo 3DS at this morning's New York press event were largely positive, at least from a hardware standpoint. I'd never seen 3D on the device before, and it's undeniably crisp and sharp. Unfortunately, it also requires your eyes and the device to be held in a relatively stable position to work.

All of this makes me wonder about a potential Achilles' heel in the design of the 3DS, one so obvious yet difficult to solve that I'm curious to see what will become of it. Namely, this: the 3DS is a portable device that's bound to move around in your hands--a lot.

I'm not even talking about the inevitable jostling that occurs during any session of button-mashing gameplay. The few games I played suffered from a bit of 3D in-and-out, but resting one's arms on a table or lap could easily help. No, the issue I'm talking about revolves around the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope in the Nintendo 3DS, which theoretically encourage motion-controlled gaming.

Several launch games show off the motion-control capabilities of the 3DS, none more so than the built-in AR Gaming app on the 3DS. The demo was impressive: laying down a coded card on a table triggered a set of 3D archery targets to sprout up, and my 3DS unit became a moving turret to shoot these targets full of arrows. I was able to tilt around the actual table, even raise up the 3DS and look down on the targets from below, in a nearly seamless augmented reality.

Seamless, that is, except for the 3D effect. Straight-on, the effect was excellent, but the moment I had to tilt and turn the unit, the image broke back into 2D again. The effect's slightly jarring. Will games find their way around this, or is this merely a small price to pay for the technical innovations in the Nintendo 3DS design?

Unfortunately, we just won't know until the final 3DS launch on March 27.

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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