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Nintendo unveils handheld 3-D gaming system

John D. Sutter
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3-D in your hands, no glasses required
  • The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld gaming system in 3-D
  • Users do not have to wear glasses to see the 3-D effects
  • Nintendo did not say how much the system will cost or when it will be available

(CNN) -- Nintendo released some details Tuesday about a new handheld gaming system that features a 3-D display but does not require players to wear special glasses.

The Nintendo 3DS is not on the market yet, and Nintendo did not give details about its release date or price during a press conference in Los Angeles, California.

Unlike 3-D movies and TV, the gaming system does not require users to wear special glasses to see pictures that appear to leap off the screen.

Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo's president for North America, said that's what differentiates the Nintendo 3DS from all other media.

"We think there's a better way, a solution that lets you take 3-D along with you wherever you go -- with ample game content available the first day on the market," he said. "And maybe best of all -- no glasses."

With 3-D gaming, Nintendo is trying to differentiate itself from other game makers at the E3 video gaming conference, which continues through Thursday. Microsoft on Monday showed off its new video gaming system, Kinect, which reads body movements and does not require remote controls. Sony was expected to announce details about its own gesture-controlled system, called Move, later Tuesday.

Nintendo also is piggybacking off the success 3-D has had in movie theaters, with three-dimensional titles such as "Avatar" setting box-office records.

The company on Monday also highlighted its Wii video game system, which lets players move remote controllers through the air to control games. A number of new Wii titles, including "Disney Epic Mickey," "GoldenEye" and "Wii Party," will be available for that system in time for the holiday shopping season.

Nintendo announced the 3DS handheld gaming system in March. But it has released few details since, and had not given reporters a chance to test the gadget until Tuesday at E3, which stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Some gamers had written they were skeptical of how clear 3-D pictures would look on the Nintendo 3DS' 3.5-inch screen, which is about the size of many smartphones.

CNN technology writer Doug Gross tried the device after the press conference in Los Angeles. He said the gaming system's 3-D image is comparable to those from 3-D animated films. "You could tilt the screen to give you different views of the characters from different angles," he said by phone.

Gross said the demo was limited to about a minute, and journalists were not allowed to play games on the device.

Some bloggers weren't all that impressed with the demo.

Writing at CrunchGear, Devin Coldewey says that the 3-D effect sinks back into the Nintendo 3DS screen, rather than popping out of it.

"The 3-D effect doesn't feel to me to be one of things popping out of the screen, but of depth behind the screen," he writes. "Things certainly seemed to protrude a bit depending on how you looked and what the scene was, but by and large it felt like the 3-D screen was a sort of window into a room, inside which everything was 3-D. The 3-D effect certainly is real, though."

Brian Crecente, from the gaming blog Kotaku, writes that the display was "unbelievable" when it was viewed from exactly the right angle, but that there are "some kinks that still need to be worked out."

"The window in which 3-D looks 3-D on that screen and doesn't appear fuzzy or make you feel cross-eyed, is extremely narrow," he writes. "Hold the device too close, too far, tilt it too much in either direction and the magic is gone."

The Nintendo 3DS features two screens -- one that shows 3-D gaming content and another that users can touch to control games. The gadget opens like a clamshell, and it is black and teal in color. A sliding control lets players adjust the 3-D effect to make it more dramatic or to remove it entirely.

On the back of the device, Nintendo has installed two cameras, which let users shoot photos in three dimensions and then display them on the screen. A front-facing camera can take pictures of players' faces during a game.

Players can control Nintendo 3DS games in several ways. The device features a D-Pad -- the group of four buttons that looks like a plus sign and has been found on the left side of Nintendo remotes for decades. It also has a touch-sensitive screen. In addition, it also features a gyroscope -- the type of sensor that makes the Wii work -- and a motion sensor.

Fils-Aime said the new controls for the Nintendo 3DS will lead to new types of games. "Just as with Nintendo DS and Wii, a number of new game ideas will be born to take advantage of these new control mechanisms," he said.

Nintendo listed several games that will be available for the 3DS upon its release, including a Madden football game, a FIFA soccer game, "Resident Evil," "Batman," "Assassin's Creed" and "Metal Gear Solid."

The company did not provide details about how it is able to produce a 3-D image without requiring players to wear special glasses. Television makers, including the TCL Corporation, have demonstrated this effect by adding a lens of sorts to the front of their TV screens. But most 3-D effects on the market still require users to wear glasses, which some complain are uncomfortable, expensive and nausea-inducing.


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