Nokia, Intel focus on 3D and virtual reality for mobile devices

University of Oulu in Finland to be home for research group using MeeGo OS

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Huomo said the three organizations are involved in a research collaboration, not a joint venture, and explained that the funds invested will support about two-dozen researchers for three years. Intel already has 21 research labs in Europe with 900 employees.

The research effort does not require building a custom 3D display, because some 3D experiences can be shown in two dimensions, Huomo said. The research group also wants to avoid creating a 3D experience that requires using special glasses, noting that small screens don't have the same physical requirements as larger displays, such as big-screen TVs and movie theater screens, whose viewers can't see 3D effects with the naked eye.

Building 3D holographic technology that would project an interactive image hasn't been ruled out, although Huomo conceded that developing such technology would be a "stretch." Holograms have for years been a staple of science fiction movies, including the Star Wars series. The Oulu researchers, however, "are trying to go for a truly immersive 3D hologram," Huomo said.

The research center gives Nokia and Intel an opportunity to "kick-start" the MeeGo operating system, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates. 3D will be most important in larger screen mobile devices, such as tablets, and less so in smartphones, he said.

Both Intel and Nokia are "playing catch-up" with popular mobile technologies such as 3D, Gold said, even though both companies have been powerhouses for years in their respective markets.

Huomo said the use of 3D and virtual reality in mobile devices could set Nokia and Intel products apart from other mobile devices and applications on the market. "That's the $1,000 question," he said. "We are starting the research and will find usage paradigms beyond the current ones."

"Nobody has a monopoly on innovation," Curley added. "This [research] will stiffen the competition and raise the game for everybody."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smart phones and other handhelds and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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