Amazon’s new Fire smartphone includes a much-discussed feature that enhances depth perception, which makes the image on the screen appear nearly (but not quite) three-dimensional.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos called the feature “dynamic perspective,” which makes images on a map appear to pop off the screen. He showed off an image of the Empire State Building emerging off a grid. Similarly, the phone produced pop-up-book-like versions of images of a rain forest and other pictures.
Amazon has been working on this technology for four years, he said. The biggest challenge was figuring out the position of the user’s head to determine how to project depth on an on-screen image. It solved this problem by embedding four cameras around the edges of the camera’s screen and providing illumination with infrared lights, which are capable of working in the dark without blinding the user.
“At the end of all this, we got really good at tracking faces, finding heads,” Bezos said.
The Fire smartphone also lets customers use small gestures to control the image on screen — for instance, tilting up or down to scroll a newspaper article (Bezos used a Washington Post article — “I’m not sure why I like this publication,” he quipped). For online shoppers, tilting the phone will cause the image to enlarge on screen — or tilting back will cause it to fade away.
The ability to control the phone by tilting also helped change the “app grid” — the interface people use to access their apps. The apps can be scrolled left to right. Underneath the 3D icon for, say, e-mail, there is a list of the incoming correspondence.