Rumour: Next iPod touch to pack glasses-free 3D

In amongst a virtual torrent of Apple rumours this week, one from Japan's Kanteidan Blog stands out, if only for its odd mix of wild speculation and patent-based evidence.

According to the blog, spotted by Technabob, Apple is gearing up to introduce glasses-free 3D, à la Nintendo's 3DS, in the next-generation iPod touch. Assuming the Cupertino-based company follows tradition, the next iPod refresh will be announced in September, with devices available soon after.

Citing an unnamed source at a company that reportedly supplies LCD screens to Apple, Kanteidan Blog claimed small-scale production of 3D LCD screens similar to this one from Sharp is ready to begin. The purported final product would use three-dimensional head-tracking and take advantage of the accelerometer and gyroscope already found in the latest-generation iPod touch and iPhone. The actual tracking would apparently be done via a front-facing camera not unlike those already found in today's iDevices. Kanteidan Blog have even put together a brief video outlining how they believe a 3D-capable iPod touch would work.

Preventing the Kanteidan Blog post from being dismissed as mere flight of fancy is Apple's apparent interest in 3D display technologies as shown in a number of patent filings. A 2006 filing, only discovered when it was granted last month, the company proposed ''inexpensive auto-stereoscopic 3D displays that allow the observer complete and unencumbered freedom of movement''. Autostereoscopic technology is also used in the 3DS handheld. In a June 2008 filing, Apple detailed a ''Hyper-Reality'' display that could add depth to 2D images in a similar way to that demonstrated in the Kanteidan Blog video below.

Yet on the other side of the equation, it seems unlikely that Apple would take a risk on an as-yet unproven technology. The company's ''take it slow'' attitude towards emerging technologies would suggest Apple will wait until at least the first generation of glasses-free 3D gadgets have been released and thoroughly market-tested.

The adoption of 3D displays in the iPod touch line would also work counter to Apple's push for better battery life with each generation. As Neowin reported earlier this month, battery life on the Nintendo 3DS is less-than-stellar, with the handheld to last as little as three hours playing 3D games. Much of the device's thirst for power can be attributed to its autostereoscopic display, suggesting Apple would be wary of introducing a similar screen into an iPod.

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