Amazon is reading a pair of smartphones and an audio-streaming device, new leaks claim, with one of the phones using eye-tracking and a glasses-free 3D display for hands-off navigation. The unannounced gadgets are the handiwork of Amazon's Lab126 hardware division, the WSJ's sources reveal, with the high-end smartphone relying upon retina-tracking to allow users to dig through a floating hologram-like interface.
"Using retina-tracking technology, images on the smartphone would seem to float above the screen like a hologram and appear three-dimensional at all angles" the insiders claim. "Users may be able to navigate through content using just their eyes."
That's only one of a number of smartphones Amazon is working on, with at least two tipped to reach the market. Fewer details are known about the second phone, which is known - alongside the other hardware - as Project A, B, C, and D within Lab126. The clandestine development is internally referred to as the "Alphabet Projects" its said.
As for the the media-streamer, that's said to be an audio-only product, and could potentially be similar to a Sonos. Interestingly, despite previous rumors in April about Amazon working on a set-top box through which it would deliver streaming media such as on-demand Amazon Prime video, this musical product is said to be a different project.
In fact, Amazon is apparently looking to hardware on a grand scale, though the sources did also suggest that any or all of the projects could be axed before they actually reach the marketplace. That could be down to financial or other concerns, they suggest, or simply deciding that the smartphones and other devices aren't ready for prime-time.
Nonetheless, it doesn't come as a huge surprise to hear that Amazon is flirting with new products, particularly in mobility. The company's ambitions in the smartphone space have been widely-rumored since before even the Kindle Fire tablets were released, with Amazon expected to use a heavily-customized version of Android tailored to suit its digital media sales ambitions.
As for the media streamer possibility, with Amazon already having an MP3 download store, and the Amazon Cloud Player service streaming content from the online locker to users' smartphones, funneling it instead to home audio equipment doesn't seem too far fetched. In that case, Amazon's tablets and potential smartphone could then become a touchscreen remote, navigating through playlists.
Of course, glasses-free 3D has been met with mixed - though generally negative - reactions from the public when companies have tried to use it in mobile devices. The Nintendo 3DS, for instance, has struggled to carve a niche out, despite its relatively unique feature of 3D gameplay, while LG's attempts to put glasses-free 3D in phones in the shape of the Optimus 3D also failred to spawn a sequel.
One possibility is that by using an eye-tracking system, the 3D effect could be considerably more impressive. Currently glasses-free systems lack precision, and can appear more like layers of stacked images than true 3D. Factoring in more accurate gaze-tracking, however, could improve on that, making a true 3D interface more usable.