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How a Cheap Plastic Film Can Give Your Smartphone a 3-D Screen

• Mike Orcutt via
Last week, a company in Singapore began shipping $35 plastic screen protectors for the iPhone 5. These are no ordinary screen protectors, though—each has half a million tiny lenses precisely patterned on its surface, which can turn an ordinary phone into a device capable of displaying 3-D images and video, no glasses required.

The 3-D effect of the “EyeFly 3D” screen protectors, made by Nanoveu, is based on lenticular lens technology, which was invented over a century ago and is used to make posters and postcards that move as the viewer changes his or her perspective. The lenses send separate images to the left and right eye to create the illusion of depth.

What makes the EyeFly unique is its manufacturing process. In particular, say its inventors, a patent-pending nanofabrication step allows for the application of “perfectly shaped lenses,” each small enough to sit above a single pixel image on the highest-resolution LCD displays on the market, and focus it toward either the right or left eye.

“We have taken an age-old lenticular lens technology and improved it with nanotechnology,” says Loke Yee Chong, a researcher at the Singaporean government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Loke helped lead the development of the fabrication technique.

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