The iPhoneoscope, Patent Application

The significance of this attempt is most critical when judged against my professional growth. The iPhonoscope was the start of creating and employing new creative tools into all of my work.

This project was founded under the idea that we would use our phones as 3D viewers and augmented displays. The patent was filed well-before Google Cardboard and allowed me to explore the trials and tribulations of the patent process. Ultimately I abandoned the Provisional I was granted due to the prior art that preceded this submission my 60 days. I would later stress that all of my work produced would be either open source or granted a CC International 4.0 license with attribution.

There is freedom in free. Phelps_Provisional_Patent Download

Description of Project in 2011: 

Project was abandoned shortly after Provisional Patent was found to have prior art. 

Project Narrative:

I have built three cheap and easy devices to produce, and display, 3D stereoscopic moving images. All of these devices use 19th-century techniques (Stereoscopy) in conjunction with ubiquitous 21st-century consumer hardware (Apple Inc.’s iPhone).

At This Stage, I intend to develop and produce:

  1. An economical paper version of my iPhone Stereoscope for distribution to view my works on the (Relationships with an established 3D paper glass company have been established. American Paper Optics, LLC,
  2. Create 3D works related to the ield of nature Due to the proliferation of the iPhone in the urban environment, I feel that the nature of 3D would beneit those lacking awareness of the world outside the city.
  3. Distribute these 3D works via a custom mage iPhone application via the iPhone SDK, and the iPhone’s own built-in YouTube
  4. Encourage and creation of an online community for user submission of

My device and distribution method uses networked portable devices as a playback medium. Although any handheld device capable of producing a moving image would be able to reproduce a stereoscopic effect, I have chosen the iPhone as the playback device to mock-up for this project because of its network connectivity, popularity by tech enthusiasts, and its ease of use by the consumer. As delivery medium changes for the consumer, the basic idea of stereoscopy remains the same as it has for 120 years… Look at disparate images through a viewer to create an added dimension and heightened reality.

To better develop this idea of creating modern stereograph equipment for enthusiasts, I have broken this project down into three parts:

Recording: I have built two devices capable of producing a 3-D image using standard consumer video cameras.

The large device was produced to test the use of my mirror concept in creating the 2 disparate images seen in stereoscopic photography. In addition to saving money by only using only one video camera to produce a 3D image, this device provides a challenge to the “Do it Yourself” enthusiast. This device requires a little editing to the recorded image but is more difficult to build. Material costs are a little over $40.00 and can use any camera that is capable of producing a 16×9 (widescreen) image, has manual focus, and can record in a progressive (30p) frame rate. In real-world testing, 3D quality of this device is acceptable.

The smaller and more simplistic device uses two cameras to record a stereoscopic image. This design incorporates the more traditional approach to stereo photography and differs from the above device due to its lack of mirrors and build complexity. The device is cheaper and simpler to build but more expensive in its total cost due to its use of dual cameras. In addition, because two separate sources (cameras) are used, as opposed to one with the larger device, more editing time is needed to prepare the images for playback on a portable device. In real-world testing, 3d images from this device are excellent.

Both devices produce stereoscopic images that can be played back on a portable device. Although they produce the images with a varying degree of accuracy and affordability, the devices are useless without a popular playback device. I believe that with technological advancements, and the popularity of 3D in the future, recording of digital stereo images will become easier to produce and playback.

Playback: I have used a simple pre-fabricated “Pocket Stereoscope” to attach to the iPhone. This device provides the eyes, and the brain, with the cohering, needed to produce the stereoscopic effect required for adding dimension to a 2D image.

This stereoscope provides the correct focal length for the iPhone and does not require adjustment for those who don’t use glasses. To accommodate the different focal lengths for people that do require glasses, a traditional focal length adjuster is needed for the next version of the playback device.

The intent is to create a cheap (read 10 cents) version of this viewer similar to the way traditional 3D glasses are made today.

The iPhone is not the only device that can potentially play back a stereograph. These same consumer lenses could be applied to other mobile phones, iPods, Portable DVD Players, PSPs, and any other device with a moderate pixel density that is capable of displaying full-motion video.

Distribution: The iPhone was chosen for this project because of its integration with YouTube. With the built-in iPhone application, users can share 3D videos and experience other videos recorded from other users around the world. YouTube also eases the burden of creating videos for any device. The stereoscope user has access to a diverse collection of videos without actually owning a 3D camera of their own. This networked use is the heart of the system and provides something that Holmes’ original stereoscope system did not, near instant 3D viewing of anything on the planet nearly anywhere on the planet.

A device with network connectivity has a big advantage over one that uses a physical format (i.e. DVD, Flash media, Hard Disks) because of the amount of video that can be made available to the user. Distribution outlets will grow as all information devices are networked.

Other uses for these designs: To encourage popularity of these devices one could distribute designs under a creative commons license. This method could spur the “DIY” community to embrace and improve on the technology. Both design concepts (camera and playback) could be improved upon and applied to current and new digital technology. I also believe because of the ease of networked distribution, users would create groups or “pools” of videos for their community, and the world, to enjoy and experiment with.

Instructions for use:

Located within the link below, you will find sample footage shot with the 3D devices in addition to images of the devices being created.

The video is formatted for use on the iPhone or and QuickTime device. It can be uploaded to the iPhone through iTunes and used with stereoscopic glasses, or a pocket stereoscope (not provided) at the correct focal length.

You can also view sample video created by the recording devices directly from the iPhone Youtube Application located on the Home screen. If you have access to an iPhone, please do a search for “Phelps iPhone 3D Test”. Or go to the link below:

Phelps iPhone 3D Test

* Please note that streaming the “Phelps iPhone 3D Test” sample video will require a WiFi connection to be viewed at full quality. If viewed while connected to the cellular network, the video will be degraded immensely. Although… the effect of highly compressed 3D footage is quite spectacular. Various degrees of compression have been applied to the test footage as a way to measure its effects on the perception of depth.


The iPhonoscope was a provisional patent I filed for in 2011. This was submitted before "Google Cardboard" or the "phone VR" craze that eventually popped up in 2012-2013.