Opinion » Cybernaut


Best of CES, worst for your eyes



Nintendo showed off the final release version of their new portable Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming devices at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, and to nobody's surprise they won the award for Best of Show.

The big selling point is that the top screen on the device offers 3D graphics without the use of any glasses, through a process known as auto stereoscopy. At CES, Nintendo also confirmed that the device would come with a built-in 3D camera so you can take your own 3D photos and even make short 3D movies.

It also does all the things that other Nintendo handhelds do - the main thing being games - a lot better than its predecessors. And it will play movies (in 3D, if you like), which is something that other DS models didn't do. The onboard memory is a relatively burly 2 GB, which is tiny compared to the average smart phone, but also an upgrade for the system. There are two cameras on the back for 3D, and one camera up front - a feature that allows for video conferencing, and some interesting interaction with games and other software. The controls will also be upgraded with a slider pad providing for analog control, which is something that the DS has badly needed since the beginning.

Kids will love this thing, despite its higher price - probably around $250, versus $140 for the DSi - and anything that kids love you can be sure hectored parents will love as well.

Is it game changing? Will all screens, and all things on them, eventually be 3D?

This is where I stumble. What does 3D have to do with gaming, besides visual effects? It doesn't change gameplay in the slightest, and most games on the underpowered players are 2D anyway, with mapping applied to make them appear 3D. True 3D games are games with three-dimensional environments, like First Person Shooters and sandbox games where perspective and camera angles change - not games like Advance Wars, where you move 3D-looking objects around a static background.

There's also a bit of concern about what Nintendo's type of glasses-less 3D does to your eyes.

First off, all video games are tough on your eyeballs and you're supposed to take about 10 minutes off after every hour. But Nintendo is advocating that you take a break every 30 minutes for the 3DS, or at the very least flip the switch that turns the 3D off.

Nintendo is also not recommending their devices for children under the age of six over concerns that the 3D could lead to headaches, nausea and even impairment in extreme cases. They've even included a parental lock so an adult can lock out the 3D if they have concerns over their child's vision.

There are perceived health risks to a lot of technology - cell phones causing brain cancer, Blackberry phones causing tendonitis in thumbs, laptops burning laps, headphones making people go deaf - and most of the risks are somewhat overstated, though they most certainly exist. And while most of the concern over glasses-free 3D is probably the result of an excess of caution, it's still a new technology - do you really want to get in on the ground floor of it, only to discover that this time the risks are actually worse?

My own inclination would be to sit on the sidelines when this hits stores in March and wait to see what happens. Early adopters make the tech world go around, but for every iPhone sure thing there's an HD-DVD gamble. Why gamble with your eyes?


The IPv4 countdown

Invisible to most Internet users is a layer of protocols that are based on numbers. Every time a new registry is added, such as a new ISP, another number is added to the list maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

As of Jan. 1, some 97 per cent of the four billion IPv4 addresses were accounted for, and sometime in the month of February the IANA is expected to run out of addresses altogether. That pretty much caps the expansion of the web and cellular network, with no addresses to identify and route traffic to new networks or server banks.

It might seem shortsighted now, but consider that the registry was last updated in 1982. Who predicted then the vast international networks that would be in place by 2011, or the billions of people that would be hooked to the grid? Or the uses that we would put the network to?

To remedy the shortage, the IANA started work on the IPv6 protocol a decade ago, and while that seems like it should mitigate the crisis it's still very much in development. There's nothing stopping people from using IPv6 now, except for the fact that it requires a huge amount of investment for some larger users to make the switch as the new addressing system needs to be applied throughout their code. For that reason the protocol is making its biggest inroads in Asia with new customers, while traditional IPv4 customers sit on their hands - and their addresses.

What will happen when we reach the IPv4 wall? Nobody is really sure, but the demand for the addresses remains high so it's a certainty that we'll reach that point in the next month or so.