TORONTO - Will 3D on smartphones like the iPhone go mainstream?

The annual top 10 list of emerging technologies compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says 3D on smartphones could take off -- without the use of special glasses.

"At the moment, we can only really do that effectively on the big screen with dumb-ass glasses," Jason Pontin, editor of the MIT Technology Review.

"It's also really expensive and no one wants to wear them," Pontin said. "On a small screen we can now create objects in three dimensions."

It's hoped the ability to convert two-dimensional content to 3D on smartphones and other emerging technologies on this year's list will make a difference.

"They represent an entirely new way of thinking about the problem," Pontin said of this year's top 10.

"They are all solving a persistent or intractable problem whose solution, if it occurred, would have a broad human impact, either economic or social."

Environmentally friendly green concrete, solar fuel and implantable electronics are on the list. The more consumer friendly real-time search and social TV also made this year's top 10.

Three-dimensional content on smartphones may or may not have a broad human impact, but for mobile phone users, especially gamers, it could be fun.

"It's a great way to navigate the web in a more creative way," Pontin said, adding that objects look "really cool" in 3D on an iPhone.

The software was developed by Dynamic Digital Depth, located in Australia and the United States, and converts two-dimensional images into 3D images in real time on the screen. Its software for this is on a Samsung smartphone that was released in South Korea.

"The effect works best over a narrow range of viewing angles, so it is ill suited to television or cinema screens," says the Boston-area MIT Technology Review.

"But phones are generally used by one person at a time and are easily held at the optimum angle. That's why mobile multimedia devices are likely to win the race to bring 3D to the mainstream."

Technology analyst Duncan Stewart said converting images to 3D from 2D generally produces "a bad user experience," but added it can be relatively effective on some video games.

"Our view is 3D in theatres is a huge thing," said Stewart, director of Deloitte Canada Research in technology, media and telecommunications in Toronto.

"Our view is that 3D on TV is three to five years out. Our view on mobiles is that certainly there will be early adopters," he said adding that hundreds of thousands of people will be regular consumers of 3D on mobile phones.

But Stewart said 3D on mobiles isn't near taking off.

"If it was 10 times bigger it would qualify as a niche."

Info-Tech Research Group analyst Jayanth Angl said networks have to have sufficient capacity to deliver quality 3D on smartphones to make consumers want to use it.

It's not a question of delivering 3D on mobile devices, said Angl, senior researcher specializing in enterprise networking and communications.

"It's more a question of bandwidth and battery life to deliver that kind of experience," he said from London, Ont.

Also on MIT's list as emerging technologies are: Dual-action antibodies to fight cancer more efficiently; light-trapping voltaics using nanoparticles to boost solar power's prospects; engineered stem cells mimicking human diseases; and cloud programming to improve online applications.

Pontin said there have been hits and misses over the years.

One technology that really took off from 2002 was called "augmented reality." That meant having a mobile phone connected to the Internet and to a GPS device to get information and directions, something Pontin said "now sounds like no big deal."

However, last year's personal software assistant was a bust, he said. It would tell you what you should do or what you might like based on questions asked.

"That's an example of a software solution that only a geek would come up with because they don't have any friends and that's how they socialize."