Amazon is working on a high-end smartphone that supposedly features next-level 3D eye-tracking technology. According to a report from TechCrunch, the device will come equipped with four front-facing cameras, one at each corner of the handset, that will track eye and head motions of the user. The goal of this technology is to give the interface the impression of 3D, a bit like Apple’s recent implementation in iOS 7.
The device itself is still in production, so much of it is unfinished. Apparently, Amazon is really playing it close to the chest, not allowing the device to leave its Lab126 facility—no outsiders are allowed in, and the device never goes outside of the building. Sources say that if the device does travel around Amazon’s campus, it does so locked up in a metal case, with only the screen visible to passerby. TechCrunch says the device itself was previously known as Duke, but is now referred to as Smith.
One of the bigger features, in addition to the 3D eye-tracking wizardry, is the phone’s ability to snap a photo of a real world object and then match it in Amazon’s ecosystem. The feature isn’t yet locked down, though (through eventual product sales) it could help offset some of the cost Amazon fronts; the hope is that owners of the device will live inside Amazon’s universe, and purchase goods directly through it.
Sources didn’t say what OS the device is running, though one would assume it’ll be Amazon’s heavily modified version of Android, which has been upgraded for the online retailers new Fire tablets. It’s unclear how Amazon’s FireOS will translate to smaller screens, though for now it seems the 3D feature is its main selling point. TechCrunch says a user will simply move their head and what’s displayed on screen will react accordingly; you’ll even be able to “‘peek’ off the edged of the screen to see things not visible from the front.”
In addition, Amazon is working on a second, much cheaper device, which will come with “basic software.” The cheaper handset has apparently been on the drawing board for quite some time, and it could see the light of day before the year is up. Amazon reportedly wanted the cheaper device out by now, but production issues held it back; it’s not clear exactly when the handset will launch.
Amazon’s more expensive smartphone is expected to launch early next year; internal specifications such as camera, processor and screen size are unknown. Over the past year, there’s been little hints here and there of Amazon producing a smartphone, but nothing to suggest just how far away the company is from an official announcement. Having just (quietly) announced its new Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon is certainly due for hosting a high-profile event. When that will be remains to be seen.