Fujifilm launching 3-D consumer camera

While the television world haplessly attempts to figure out how to bring 3-D display technology to the home, Fujifilm is charging forward with the bold goal of bringing the third dimension to still camera photos.

The only thing immediately and obviously curious about the company’s prototype point-and-shoot camera (pictured above) is the placement of a second lens on its front. One lens is located roughly on each of the upper corners on the front face of the camera, giving the front of the shooter the vague appearance of a smiling robot.

The technology is pretty simple: Snap the shutter and both lenses capture a slightly different image — the same trick that all 3-D systems use to get that uncanny 3-D effect. More magic is required in the piecing together of the two shots into a single, 3-D image. You need specific technology in order to view 3-D images, and Fujifilm has two options for observers who want to enter the third dimension, neither of which requires special glasses to work.

The first is a custom photo frame which directs the appropriate image to the appropriate eye of the viewer, presumably if he or she stands in just the right spot. The second is the tantalizing option for 3-D prints, with are treated with a plastic coating that “acts as a kind of 3-D lens” that can show off the image in three dimensions. In addition to selling the hardware to take the shots, the company hopes to offer a service to make the prints, ideally with a price of under $5 a pop. Developing pictures? Talk about old school!

The new camera, which doesn’t appear to have a model number yet, arrives in Japan this summer and on our shores in September, at an expected price of about $600. Expect to pay a few hundred bucks for the frame, also.

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