Despite the desperate surge in flashy 3-D blockbusters of the last several years, the eye-boggling technology isn’t new. 3-D cinema was invented in the early 1950s, while stereoscopic photography dates much further back. The visual trick was popularized by the Fisher Price View-Master, the red plastic viewfinder we used to love staring into as kids.
At the time, you probably didn’t notice the limitations of the View-Master, which came pre-packaged with reels of pristine landscapes and screwball cartoon characters. You could flip through the cycle of images, but you couldn’t use it to watch in real life. A new iPhone accessory changes that.
Poppy turns any iPhone 4, 4S, or 5 into a 3-D camera. Developed by tech gurus Ethan Lowry (co-founder of Urbanspoon) and Joe Heitzeberg (co-founder of Snapvine and MediaPiston), the boxy device enables users to capture and view images in crisp 3-D. It’s even compatible with Youtube’s 3-D video. "[W]hat makes Poppy special," Lowry tells Co.Design, "is that you can see 3-D you have captured from your own life (kids, sports, etc) and what your friends have shared with you."
The duo have launched a Kickstarter to put Poppy into production. Halfway into the campaign, and they’ve already raised well over three times their original goal.
The design is extremely simple. There aren’t any buttons to deal with (except those on your phone) or even batteries to charge or change. Just drop your iPhone into the slot—kind of like you would a cartridge into a SNES—and raise the viewer to your eyes.
Poppy gave Lowry and Heitzenberg a way to apply their software skills to product design. "Both of us wanted to build physical products and join the maker revolution," Lowry says. The plastic device consists of two components: the viewfinder, which holds the iPhone, and a second, thinner rectangular box attached to the front. The latter contains a set of mirrors that scramble the iPhone photography into left and right images, effectively capturing two images at once. To kick things into 3-D mode, you swivel the screen to the side to start snapping your own eye-popping images.
Lowry and Heitzenberg envision a whole range of applications for Poppy, including capturing live sports, weddings, and even architectural walkthroughs. The pair say that 3-D videos look much better through Poppy than through standard red-and-blue glasses, which shouldn’t be a surprise. (Though the former is bulkier than the latter, and you might grow tired holding the viewfinder for an extended period.) They even hope app developers will use Poppy’s interface to create "true" 3-D augmented reality.
If all goes well, Poppy should begin shipping in early 2014, but given the massive online reception, it could even be ready later this year. You can order yours now for $49 here.