Why isn’t the Fire phone truly 3D? Amazon’s ‘Dynamic Perspective’ tech explained

amazon smartphone 3d effect fire phone dynamic perspective

After years of waiting, Amazon finally unveiled its smartphone, the Fire Phone, on Wednesday. As we expected, Amazon is doing things a little differently than the generations of 3D phones that have come before.

Don’t call it 3D. Call it Dynamic Perspective

During the event, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos referred to its technology not as 3D, but as “Dynamic Perspective.” It’s a fundamentally different effect from what we’ve seen previous 3D phones produce, like the HTC EVO 3D. Objects on the screen will subtly shift as you move your head, as if they existed at different depths within the phone, but they won’t appear to poke out at you, or have real depth at rest. Holding the screen and your head completely still, there would appear to be no 3D effect at all; the illusion is only generated by shifting perspectives.

Think of it like the 3D chalk paintings you sometimes see that depict what looks like some sort of hole in the Earth. It might make a good photo op to pretend you’re teetering on the edge of a chasm, but in person, you wouldn’t look down and get vertigo, because your eyes give your brain the depth information to know the image you’re looking at is only four feet away.

(Image courtesy of ART for AFTER HOURS)
(Image courtesy of ART for AFTER HOURS)

The Fire Phone uses four front-facing cameras to track the movement of your head and “redraw” the image on the phone’s screen from your new vantage point. According to Bezos, Amazon was working on the technology for four years, with the CEO noting that one camera wasn’t enough to deliver the dynamic perspectives due to the narrow field of view. By placing four cameras instead of just one, it can continually track your head while delivering a wider field of view.

Using four cameras has other perks, too. The Fire Phone will use the best two cameras in the event that the other two end up covered by thumbs. And in the dark, each camera has infrared lights to continue keeping tabs on you.

Tilt, swivel, and peek

Besides just looking cool, Dynamic Perspectives can be useful, too. By tilting the handset, you can change the point of view you have of a landmark in the maps application, for example. You can also tilt the handset to learn about any Yelp reviews nearby restaurants have, and look through various products while shopping.

More specifically, tilting the Fire Phone from right to left brings up a panel that lets you access various information. For example, if you tilt while in the Amazon Music application, it will bring up the right panel that shows the lyrics of the song you’re currently listening to. The left panel, meanwhile, lets you navigate through menus.

By swiveling the device, you can access notifications and quick settings, such as MayDay, the flashlight, airplane mode, and more. Swivel and tilt also work if you want to scroll up and down a webpage, for example, or when you want to go to the next page while reading a book in the Kindle application.

Where does the technology come from?

TechCrunch claims that it knows where Amazon is getting its Dynamic Perspective technology. The site’s sources say that Japanese company Omron Okao Vision is responsible for the Amazon smartphone’s unique Dynamic Perspective effect. Amazon reportedly altered Okao Vision’s facial recognition and tracking technology to suit its purposes. The original Okao tech allows for analysis of the user’s face to determine age, ethnicity, and gender. Since Amazon only showed off the Fire Phone’s head-tracking capabilities, we assume that analysis won’t be included.

The Okao technology reportedly uses coordinates from the four cameras on the front of the phone to recognize the user’s face. The phone’s built-in gyro sensor and accelerometer help make Okao work faster and more efficiently.

Revolutionary tech or gimmick?

From what we know about the Amazon phone’s specs, it looks like the Dynamic Perspective and special gestures are the only things that will differentiate this smartphone from all the other ones that are already out there. Amazon will surely promote these effects as original and ground-breaking, but in reality the phone’s 3D powers might just be a flashy gimmick. After all, based on these reports, it’s not like the cameras and the sensors actually do anything spectacularly different from what other devices already do. Sure, it will look cool, but it’s not exactly Project Tango.

Even so, to say that the Fire Phone utilizes 3D technology to its advantage would be belying what the Fire Phone is capable of. While both of LG’s 3D smartphones failed miserably and simply irritated users and the HTC EVO 3D didn’t fare much better, they attempted to cash in on a trend. Amazon seems to take the concept of 3D and take it to various levels above gimmick. Much like the handset itself, however, Dynamic Perspective will live or die by whether developers incorporate the feature into their apps and whether people will care enough to use it on a regular basis.


Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.

19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great stocking stuffer ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth…

Google Maps makes it easier than ever to find a Lime bike or scooter

Google Maps has added a new feature that helps you find a Lime bike or scooter in just a few taps. The feature currently works in 11 U.S. cities served by Lime, with more coming next year.

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.

Quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed

Looking for a few accoutrements to make your smartphone even better? If you, or someone you know, is a sucker for accessories, you'll want to check out our collection of quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.

The best Wear OS watches

There are a ton of different Wear OS watches out there, but which one's right for you? No matter what you're looking for from a smartwatch, here are the best Wear OS watches out there.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.