Researchers have developed a way to show 3D images on the iPad 2 with no special hardware, a technology that could bring a 3D effect to just about any device with a front-facing camera.

The technique utilizes the iPad’s front camera to track the movement of a user’s head and adjust images accordingly to create a glasses-free 3D effect on the iPad 2’s screen.

The effect works on any display… a video demonstration on a regular computer monitor shows the effect to be convincing, even if it isn’t entirely stereoscopic.

The experiment is the latest in bringing 3D technology to a growing number of mobile devices, most of which use specialized display technologies to create the 3D effect. Some devices don’t require the viewer to wear special glasses, like the HTC Evo 3D and Nintendo’s 3DS.  Others, including 3D televisions, require the use of eyewear.

Apple filed a patent with the likely intention of creating a way to take 3D pictures and videos on a future iPhone using hardware instead of the disparity-detecting software used on some other cameras. Three-dimensional smartphones like Thrill and Evo 3D also both have two cameras, making it possible to capture three-dimensional images similar to the 3DS.

The ability to create semi-3D effects using software and increasingly common front-facing cameras could lead to new user interface models for mobile devices. This bit of 3D offered by this technique could also drive demand for the more “intense” hardware-dependent 3D technologies.

Researchers Jeremie Francone and Laurence Nigay of the Laboratory of Informatics at the EHCI Research Group developed the technique, officially  called “Head-Coupled Perspective”, which adds another 3D viewing method to the growing list of ways to see in three dimensions on smartphones, tablets and other gaming devices devices.

Could this feature be included in iOS 5, or even the next iDevice?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

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