Toshiba develops wide-angle 3D technology

Toshiba has developed a prototype flatbed wide-angle 3D technology that could appear in games arcades next year.

Toshiba plans to bring color 3D displays to video game arcades late next year -- and there'll be no need to don special goggles. The company will market the wide-angle 3D displays for video arcades in the second half of 2006, and extend the technology to applications including family TVs by 2010, it said Friday.

The 3D displays have small lenses in front of each pixel, allowing different images to be seen depending on the point of view. In this way, software can calculate different images to be sent to the viewer's left and right eye to generate a 3D effect.

The viewing angle for such displays has in the past been limited, said Yuzo Hirayama, senior research scientist at Toshiba's Humancentric Laboratory, part of the company's research and development center in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. However, where other systems calculate and display two to four viewpoints, Toshiba's system can display between 12 and 16. The increased number of viewpoints allows people to see a 3D image at an angle of up to 30 degrees from the center of the screen, he said.

In demonstrations, objects such as bottles and cans, majong (Chinese solitaire) pieces, and arcade games were displayed, and both the moving and still objects correctly showed shadow, depth and color without distortion.

The company has so far developed two sizes of prototype LCD displays. One is 15.4 inches across the diagonal and has a resolution of 480 pixels by 400 pixels. The other is a 24-inch display with a resolution of 480 pixels by 300 pixels, according to Toshiba. It has also developed middleware that supports fast playback of the images with a graphics card, it said.

The technology can be applied to a range of display types including plasma and OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode), said Mutsuhiro Arinobu, director of Toshiba's research and development center.

The company is considering producing the 3D panels at its Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology joint venture with Matsushita Industrial Electric but has no fixed plans to do so yet, Arinobu said.

Toshiba did not disclose expected pricing for the displays. Commercial versions would probably be sold at a small premium to the cost of similar-sized displays not equipped with the special lenses, Hirayama said.

Toshiba wants to promote the technology for arcade games and applications such as design aids next year. Future applications include developing the technology for home gaming in 2008, for mobile phones in 2009, and for TVs in 2010, according to a company presentation.

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