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Hands-on look at MasterImage 3-D tablet

April 16, 2012|By Michelle Maltais | This post has been updated, as indicated below.

Everywhere you look these days, something is jumping off a screen at you in 3-D. It's in movies new and retro. It's on YouTube. It's trying to find its way into your home entertainment setup. And there are efforts to get 3-D literally into consumers' hands. Tech Now got a first U.S. look at a tablet that offers hand-held 3-D viewing without glasses.

Matt Liszt of MasterImage 3D brought over a reference tablet they had just shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. It was outfitted with MasterImage 3D's proprietary display and ran Android's Ice Cream Sandwich using Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 processor.

First, I watched a 3-D trailer for the movie"Hugo."Holding the tablet in the sweet spot right in front of me, I found the images to be stunning. And videos made exclusively for the demo leaped off the screen. Bubbles wafted and popped before my eyes. Graphic comics took on a new life.

And the visuals added, well, another dimension to gaming. Now, honestly, I'm no hard-core gamer. But the images drew me in and made me jump into the ring to whale on that other dude in the mixed-martial arts game "The Reem."

Despite being shown on what amounts to an Android tablet, their patented Cell-Matrix Parallax Barrier technology could be used on any tablet -- Android, iOS or Windows. I could see the possibilities for this being easily integrated in the next generation of tablets as a standard feature.

And 3-D could be the next frontier for apps as well -- gaming, graphic comics, children's books, textbooks. These conversations are already taking place. Offerings are in development.

MasterImage's patented technology road map can be scaled from 10-inch tablets down to 4.3-inch smartphones. Again, on a smartphone demo, the personal 3-D viewing was actually pleasurable. I'm not sure it would be as enjoyable any smaller, though.

"Our technology can go bigger," Liszt said. "But we really do want to focus on having the most beautiful, wonderful experience on the smartphones and tablets."

Well, maybe not just smartphones and tablets. MasterImage is hoping it takes off as your in-flight entertainment. Again, no immediate details other than deals are in the works.

The device shown at The Times included an integrated stereoscopic camera, so you could do videoconferencing in 3-D, if you wished. (Check out the video above from the tablet's Barcelona showing, at Mynetbooknews' YouTube channel.)

The company has a few deals in the works, although Liszt wouldn't say anything other than expect to see a tablet with this glasses-free 3-D technology about the first of next year.

Of course, a premium feature comes with a premium cost. Liszt wouldn't confirm how much a 3-D display would add to the cost of a tablet or phone.

As talk of a possible Windows tablet has been heating up, this could be something that could give Microsoft an edge in a market that has all but moved on without it. And the cost could be mitigated somewhat if what IHS recently said about the efficiency of the Windows Phone operating system and lower memory requirements pans out.

YouTube's offering 3-D videos and 3-D conversion as well as speculation about Apple's patent for integrated 3-D cameras on a mobile device give further credence to this being the next frontier.

[For the record, 4:52 p.m. April 30: The headline on an earlier version of this post described our look at the MasterImage 3-D tablet as "exclusive." In fact, we were given the first chance to view the tablet in the U.S., and we have amended the headline and post accordingly.]

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Hands-on look at MasterImage 3-D tablet

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