NEW YORK — With the Nintendo 3DS, the Japanese video game company is betting that it can once again nudge mass entertainment in a new direction, just as it did nearly five years ago when it launched the Wii with its innovative motion-based controller.
The hand-held 3DS, which went on sale yesterday in the United States for $250, lets users play 3-D games without wearing special glasses. It also takes 3-D photos. This summer, the 3DS will play 3-D movies streamed from Netflix on its 3.5-inch screen.
Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo’s US arm, calls it “the first mass-market 3-D device.’’
Nintendo’s hand-held gaming systems have been wildly popular since the days of the Game Boy, but in recent years people have grown accustomed to playing games on their smartphones.
And both AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. have said that they will soon be selling smartphones with 3-D screens.
The technology used to create 3-D images on the 3DS is not new. Called a “parallax barrier’’ LCD screen, it works as if two sets of thin blinds were laid over the screen, so that each eye sees a different version of the image.
Your brain then puts them together, creating the 3-D effect.
Because it only works if the viewer is at a certain place in relation to the screen, this technology is better suited to hand-held devices than it is to television sets.