Sharp launches 3D for mobile devices

Sharp unveiled a small 3D display on Friday that does not require users to wear special glasses – the first of its kind to offer image quality close to that of a 2D liquid crystal display and raise the prospect of 3D becoming standard on mobile devices such as phones and digital cameras.

The Japanese consumer electronics group forecast that 10-20 per cent of small displays in the market might be 3D-ready in this fiscal year, reaching 50 per cent in the longer term.

“Just like the switch from monochrome to colour, in the future we are going to see a shift from 2D to 3D,” said Yoshisuke Hasegawa, general manager of Sharp’s LCD business.

The new product is an LCD display with a “switch panel” attached. When the panel is turned on, a very fine grating appears over the screen that blocks light from the screen travelling in certain directions. The result is that the left and right eyes see different parts of the LCD underneath, creating a 3D effect.

When the Financial Times tried the new display, there was a convincing 3D effect but only when viewed from directly in front and 30cm away. The need for the user to be in a precise position is why the technology has not been used for 3D TVs. It is more practical in a mobile device that has only one viewer.

The Sharp display is 3.4 inches (8.6cm) across the diagonal, similar to the 3.25-inch screen of Nintendo’s existing DSi handheld console. It includes a touch panel.

Sharp and Nintendo are based close to each other in the Kansai region of Japan. However, the company refused to say whether the display would be used in the 3DS handheld games console that Nintendo is launching this year.

Sharp said that it would start mass production at one of its plants in Japan by September. It will use 3D screens in its own electronics and said that it is talking to customers including mobile phone makers.

Sharp first launched 3D screens in 2002 but they had lower brightness, lower resolution and took up more space than the 2D equivalent.

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