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Could a 3D iPad succeed where the Nintendo 3DS failed?

Rumor has it that Apple considered launching an iPad 3D, but scrapped plans on the grounds that it might be seen as a "gimmick." But imagine what if...

Will the iPad 3 come with 3D?
Will the iPad 3 come with 3D?

Would you buy an iPad 3D?

That's the question consumers might have been asking themselves next year, according to a report from Business Insider. But according to the blog's source, Apple decided to nix plans for an iPad 3 with 3D over concerns that the device could become "a gimmick."

Take that rumor, of course, with the usual grain of salt. Apple hasn't confirmed it'll be launching another iPad, nor has the company spoken of an iPad with 3D. And Business Insider's source is a degree or two removed, though the blog says the source has been reliable in the past.

But the concept is an interesting one. According to the source, the 3D iPad would have worked as does the Nintendo 3DS, letting users view content in the third dimension without requiring glasses. It's not the first time we've heard that rumor. In April, a Hollywood "insider" told RCR Wireless that "the fact that the iPad 3 is 3D is a dead cert."

But could that device succeed? It's tough to say. Right now, 3D isn't catching on nearly as much in the mobile space as some companies had hoped for.

Nintendo, for example, has been trying to make glasses-free 3D a staple in the portable market all year. But during Nintendo's first fiscal quarter ended June 30, the company could only muster 710,000 unit sales of the 3DS worldwide, including 110,000 in the U.S. The paltry sales forced Nintendo to drop the price of the 3DS to $169.99 from $249.99. But even after that, the Nintendo 3DS has trailed the Xbox 360 in monthly U.S. sales and has failed to attract the kind of attention the Game Boy and original DS did at the same point in their life cycles.

Of course, there are several reasons for that, including the fact that the iPhone and Android-based handsets are becoming increasingly popular in the gaming space. But Nintendo itself has acknowledged that the 3D is a liability for its portable.

Nintendo has an issue with 3D on the 3DS.
Nintendo has an issue with 3D on the 3DS. Nintendo

"The value of 3D images without the need for special glasses is hard to be understood through the existing media," Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata said earlier this year in a discussion on the issues his company is facing with the 3DS. "However, we have found that people cannot feel it just by trying out a device, rather, some might even misestimate it when experiencing the images in an improper fashion. This makes it more important to give people more opportunities for appropriate experiences of glassless 3D images."

The problem is, 3D viewing is highly personal. And the 3DS makes it more difficult for users, since it requires each person to set their own "depth" with a slider on the side to get the right 3D effect for them. What's more, because the device is glasses-free, users must be holding the 3DS at the right angle in order to get the full 3D effect.

Considering that an iPad 3D would reportedly have come with the same glasses-free experience, it's unlikely that the issues the 3DS suffer from would have been different for Apple. That is, of course, if Apple wasn't trying something totally unique to bring 3D to the device.

Earlier this year, researchers in France told CNET in an e-mail about a technology they had developed called Head-Coupled Perspective. By using a device's front-facing camera, the technology can track a person's head to adjust the glasses-free 3D display, no matter the angle of the head in relation to the screen.

"Our technique uses the front-facing camera of the device to detect and track the face of the user," Jeremie Francone, a Ph.D. student in the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction research group at the Grenoble Informatics Laboratory in France, told CNET in an interview at that time. "This way, it is possible to know 'how' the user looks at the display: does he look from the front, or from the right? Is the display close or far from the user's face? Knowing such information enables us to adapt the display accordingly, giving the user the illusion that he looks at a small window instead of a 2D flat screen."

Francone and his team have already ported their technology to the iPad (see the video below). But the only question is, would Apple want to make it an official part of iPad 3?

At this point, no one is saying. And Apple has not immediately responded to CNET's request for comment. But if Apple does, in fact, bring 3D to the iPad, it will need to find a way to avoid the pitfalls devices like the Nintendo 3DS haven't been able to overcome.

Glasses-free 3D on the iPad: