Amazon is expected to launch its first smartphone later tonight. The USP of the smartphone is expected to be its 3D UI that will let users see hidden menus among other things if they tilt their head or the phone. The idea is to give an experience similar to someone peeking out of a window and what they will be able to see depends on their angle of view. We now know how the technology works, which includes having four low-power infrared cameras on the front that track the user’s head and adjust the UI accordingly. However, the inspiration behind the UI could be a video from December 2007.
According to a BusinessWeek report, the phone project started sometime in 2009 at Amazon’s secretive Lab126, which is responsible for the online retailer’s hardware products including the Kindle ebook readers and most recently the Dash, which is a kind of a wand to which you can dictate your shopping list or scan barcodes of stuff you have run out of or add to your list.
The team working on the smartphone project was impressed by a video of hacker Johnny Chung Lee who demonstrated how a Wii Remote could be hacked to track a person’s head and show visuals that change depending on the person’s vantage point. Here’s the video.
The Amazon smartphone is said to use Japan-based Omron’s Okao Vision face sensing technology to achieve the stereoscopic effect on an LCD screen. Users will be able to tilt the smartphone to access hidden side menus and the phone’s gyro sensor and accelerometer will ensure fast and smooth response. This will enable users to see objects from different angles before buying them off Amazon or look at a map from different angles.
Amazon teased its unique 3D UI in this YouTube video it released along with the invitation to the press conference that depicts people tilting their heads from side to side and getting surprised.