Nintendo to launch 3D-capable DS handheld

The device will allow 3D gaming without the need for special glasses

The Nintendo DS. Its successor, provisionally called the 3DS, will be launched in Japan before the end of March 2011

The Nintendo DS. Its successor, provisionally called the 3DS, will be launched in Japan before the end of March 2011

Nintendo is planning to launch a new version of its handheld DS gaming device on which users can get the illusion of 3D without using special glasses, it said Tuesday.

The device, provisionally called the 3DS, will be launched in Japan before the end of March 2011, the company said. No further details were provided, but Nintendo said it would disclose more information at the upcoming E3 gaming event. E3 is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles from June 15 to 17.

3D has emerged as the latest big trend in consumer electronics and most major TV makers are planning to launch 3D TV sets this year. Those sets display two slightly different images, one for each eye, and glasses are required so that each eye sees the appropriate image and the brain is tricked into perceiving depth in the picture.

An alternate way of achieving a 3D effect is to place a filter directly in front of the display panel that consists of thousands of small lenses. The lenses focus each image to a fixed point in space and the viewer gets the 3D illusion as long as they are watching from that position. It has the advantage of not requiring glasses but restricts the viewing angle and typically means only a single person can see the 3D effect.

The new DS will launch as sales of the handheld are declining. In the last nine months of 2009 the company sold 23.4 million DS devices, a drop of 9 percent on the same period in 2008. Software sales during the same period were down by a quarter to 121.4 million units, according to Nintendo figures.

Nintendo most recently relaunched the DS in November in Japan, when it put out a version of the dual-screen handheld with larger screens. Each of the screens on the DSi LL is 4.2 inches in size, which makes them about double the area of the screens on the DS Lite and larger than the 3.25-inch screens on the DSi.

The timing of Tuesday's announcement is unusual because it comes just days before the March 28 launch of the larger DS in the U.S., where it is called the DSi XL. The handheld was launched earlier this month in Europe.

By disclosing its plans for a 3D version of the DS Nintendo risks potential customers putting off planned purchases of the DSi XL until it discloses more details about the upcoming 3D version.

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