When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Amazon phone on Wednesday, now officially known as the Fire Phone, most expectations centered around the long-rumored 3D feature.
Ending the speculation, Bezos finally unveiled the Fire Phone's 3D technology on stage at the Seattle event, completing the story that was first teased when Amazon posted a video of amazed users fiddling with a mysterious device two weeks ago.
Amazon calls its 3D display technology Dynamic Perspective. As the name suggests, the tech will dynamically change your viewing experience depending upon your perspective, as well as how you hold and move the phone. The display is meant to give viewers a sense of looking deeper into the screen (technically called positive parallax) rather than creating images that "jump out" (negative parallax).
"We started working on this four years ago... and had early versions of Dynamic Perspective within the first week," Bezos said during the demonstration.
The effect is meant to make the flat phone feel like a window into another three-dimensional plane. Bezos began showing off the power of Dynamic Perspective by revealing several lock screens on the phone.
One of the ways the feature could be useful is via the phone's mapping app, which Bezos showed the audience briefly by manipulating a three-dimensional view of New York's Empire State Building.
He then took the audience into the gaming arena by showing off how the feature works when playing Tofu Fury. During the demo, Bezos tilted the phone's screen and appeared to look around objects on the screen toward the next the level of the game.
Bezos also showed off a different aspect of Dynamic Perspective that allows you to scroll across the screen by simply tilting the phone.
Illustrating the power of the "tilt to scroll" feature, Bezos used it to move through a selection of dresses on Amazon, as well as through a Washington Post article. You can tilt the phone and allow it to scroll infinitely and simply tap the screen to stop the scrolling effect. If you run across a particularly long document, you can set the speed of the auto scroll and lock it in place, a feature that adds to Amazon's claims that the Fire Phone is optimized for one-handed operation.
The technology behind Dynamic Perspective always knows where the user's head is located in relation to the screen. To achieve this effect, Amazon equipped the phone with special front-facing cameras with a wide 120-degree view. Four cameras handle the head tracking, with two taking on the task at any given time, so no matter how you hold the phone the cameras have a good shot at locking in on your head's position.
Each of the cameras is also equipped with infrared lights, giving them the ability to track your head even in low-light situations. "No matter how you hold the phone, we can pick the best two [cameras] for stereo vision," said Bezos.
According to Bezos, the device's head-tracking ability is so robust that it can even tell when a fake head (e.g., a mannequin) is positioned in front of its cameras.
For those who have closely followed the bleeding edge in mobile technology, none of these features are particularly groundbreaking on their own (tilt-to-scroll is old hat, and Apple already impressed smartphone users with its parallax effect, which is admittedly less 3D). But combined into one package in the Fire Phone, Dynamic Perspective could make for a compelling immersive experience.
The company is also making a Developer Kit for Dynamic Perspective available, a decision that could result in a wide array of head-tracking applications eventually coming to the Fire Phone's ecosystem. That is, assuming developers buy into the Fire Phone as a true platform, rather than merely a money-printing machine for Amazon's e-commerce storefront.
Starting at $199 for the 32 GB model and $299 for the 64 GB model, the phone will be available exclusively with AT&T. You can pre-order it now, and the Fire sale begins on July 25.