Sharp display shows 3-D images
Asia Computer Weekly (ACW) October 14-20, 2002 (Vol. 23, No.34)

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TOKYO: SHARP has developed an LCD that can display images in 3-D, and is forming an industry consortium to promote the inclusion of 3-D effects in videogames, PDAs, TVs and other applications.

After years of false starts, Sharp believe 3-D imaging systems are ready to go mainstream. "The new 3-D LCD will be able to open up a completely new market," said Mikio Katayama, group general manager of Sharp's mobile liquid crystal display group.

After a decade of development at Sharp Laboratories of Europe, the 3-D LCD technology will be ready for volume production this quarter. "Products with the 3-D displays will hit the market Q1 '03," Katayama said.

Sharp's 3-D display uses the established parallax barrier method, which separates light for viewing by each of the left and right eye of a viewer. The display consists of a TFT LCD panel, a parallax barrier, a switching liquid-crystal panel and a backlight.

Sharp's research team in Britain laid the groundwork for the company's 3-D LCD.

The 3-D display is basically designed for personal use, as the "sweet spot" for viewing is narrow and thus sufficient for only one person. An indicator on the display changes colour to inform a user of the best position for viewing the display.

As a next step, the research team is looking to support better 3-D effects and to widen the viewing position to support multiple users.

Sharp has developed prototypes of 4-inch, 7-inch, 8.4inch and 15-inch panels for applications ranging from electric reference, games and still-image systems.

In the past, displays that showed 3-D effects were for limited applications and never reached the wider consumer market. Sharp believes its 3-D LCD can change that.

By 2005, the total number of products with an LCD is expected to be about 70 million units in Japan, Katayama said. He added that it is possible Sharp would license the technology to help expand the 3-D LCD market.

"We seriously want to create a 3-D imaging system market. That's why we appealed to form a 3D consortium," he said.

Thirteen companies have said they are interested in joined the 3-D consortium, including Microsoft, the Japanese unit of Eastman Kodak, Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo, Fuji Photo Film, Olympus, NTT data and Imagica. It will be formed by the end of the year. -EE Times