Amazon’s Smartphone To Feature Unique But Limited 3D Effects

TechCrunch has learned that Amazon’s upcoming flagship smartphone, running a forked version of Android, will have head-tracking capabilities offering up limited 3D effects. This key feature will be reserved to just a few built-in gestures, according to a source with first-hand experience of the company’s mobile ambitions.

Amazon has long been working on a pair of smartphones. TechCrunch learned last October that internally the venture is called “Project Smith”. “Duke” is the internal codename for the high-end device that features head tracking.

According to our source, the flagship device, Duke, is powered by a heavily modified version of Android. It’s FireOS with extreme 3D parallax effects, similar to those found on iOS but greatly exaggerated. The screen itself is not 3D, but rather simulates a 3D effect.

By way of four corner-mounted, front-facing cameras, a user can tilt the smartphone left or right to browse and access hidden side panels. We’re told that the 3D feature is very limited out of the box. At launch, there will be just a couple of added gestures built into the operating system that utilize this system.

Contrary to previous reports, this is done through head tracking alone and does not use eye tracking at all. Amazon never worked on eye tracking for its smartphones, TechCrunch learned.

The tracking technology itself is robust and developed by a team within Amazon — likely at Amazon’s Lab126 development skunkworks. Apparently, the OS simply does not leverage the head tracking in a meaningful way and reportedly does not lend to the device’s usability.

The timetable for this launch is unknown. Apparently Amazon hopes that it will spawn a new breed of games and applications. According to the WSJ, Amazon has already showed the device off to key developers in San Francisco and Seattle so it’s likely the device will launch with third party support.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Amazon plans on announcing the phone by June and shipping it by the end of September, a schedule confirmed by a TechCrunch source.