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Sense versus sensor on the Nintendo 3DS

Last updated on April 22, 2014

I’ve written here and there about how 3D is not the only intriguing capability of the Nintendo 3DS and the components of the system generally work well together and complement each other. But two in particular can be at odds with each other – the 3D screen and the gyroscope.

One tradeoff of the 3DS’ autostereoscopic display is that the 3D effect needs to reorient if the viewing angle moves too far from its sweet spot; this causes a dark wave to pass over the screen. Of course, gyroscopes invite such reorientation since they respond to it to enhance gameplay.

Recently, I discussed this challenge with Greg Galvin, CEO of Kionix, a company that produces accelerometers and gyroscopes, and he held out hope for its reconciliation. The key, he self-servingly notes, is that the sensors in many of today’s products – while a step up from the early efforts that are in the original Wii controller – aren’t nearly as sensitive as they could be. Higher-end components, though, are more precise and require far less of a tilt to produce the same effect.

There must be a fine line, though, between subtlety and the natural tilting and shaking that could be a normal byproduct of playing a handheld game. It seems similar to the kind of intelligence Synaptics and others are addressing with palm or wrist detection on touchscreens to differentiate purposeful contact from a resting part of the hand.