How iOS 7’s Parallax Effect Tricks Our Eyes Into Seeing 3D

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One of iOS 7’s signature new effects is parallax tilt shifting, which gives the operating system a 3D effect. But how does it work?

Over at Macworld, they’ve published an informative look at how iOS 7 tricks the human eye into thinking that the device is actually a window into a self-contained world. And it’s all done with the gyroscope and a powerful GPU.

On iOS, the parallax effect is, of course, entirely simulated by the operating system’s software, with a little help from a technology that was originally conceived for rocket guidance.

Buried among the hardware that makes up most of Apple’s modern mobile devices is a component called a MEMS gyroscope; it contains an extremely small mechanism capable of vibrating at a known rate when subjected to an electrical charge.

When you rotate the device around any of the three angles of motion, this little marvel of human technology—smaller than a human hair—tends to resist the change in orientation because of Newton’s First Law of Motion. This allows the hardware to measure the speed and direction in which the phone or tablet is being rotated.

Working in concert with a few additional sensors called accelerometers, the gyroscope allows the device to understand the changes in its relative position with a reasonably good level of accuracy.

It’s a fantastic read. If you think iOS 7’s parallax effects are a gimmick, well, you might be right… but it’s still a clever one.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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