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Amazon was thinking about a 3D phone years ago, early patents reveal

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Amazon Appstore Android (STOCK)
Amazon Appstore Android (STOCK)

In 2008, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was already dreaming up a 3D smartphone. Now it's five years later, and while Amazon has built a series of great tablets, a smartphone has yet to materialize. But rumors of one have: Amazon is now said to be developing Bezos' 3D smartphone, which would work by tracking its user's head and adjusting the interface to make it appear to have depth. While details are otherwise slim, Unwired View has unearthed a number of Amazon patents from over the years — in addition to one from Bezos himself dating all the way back to 2008 — that detail what just such a device might look like.

Smiling could become a gesture

One of the main concerns with current smartphones and tablets that these patents focus on is that they can become difficult to use when at odd angles. One solution they suggest is that by using their tracking technology, the device's keyboard could be constantly repositioned so that it fell directly beneath its user's hands. They also describe Leap Motion-style hand tracking, allowing users to press buttons by performing gestures in midair. But most of the gestures seem to be more subtle than poking at nonexistent buttons: nodding your head, leaning to either side, or even just smiling could all be used to control a phone or some other device's interface, the patents say.

The patents' illustrations give a look at how this might play out on a smartphone. Some illustrations show a card-style interface that would appear deeper or shallower, or shift left or right depending on where the viewer was looking from. Other illustrations show how an item might appear to physically depress when activated by using shadows that match up with the angle the viewer is looking from. Those details don't strictly sound like the makings of a helpful user interface, but these are also just patent illustrations meant in part to exemplify what Amazon is thinking about — not strictly what it'll end up doing with them. It looks like Amazon is focusing on other projects for the rest of 2013, so there may still be quite a ways to go before Amazon reveals its real plans.