Sharp ships 3D monitor

If you want to play 3D computer games without wearing special glasses, or watch Ghosts of the Abyss without looking like a geek, a new LCD monitor just released by Sharp brings your dream closer to reality--for a price.

The new LL-151-3D flat-panel display, already available in Sharp's online store, is really aimed at professions that rely on 3D for better productivity, such as medical imaging, mapping, oil exploration, and CAD. The monitor's initial US$1500 estimated street price pretty much defines it as a professional tool rather than a consumer toy.

Early Applications

Entertainment applications will come later, when the price inevitably drops. Sharp is planning on it.

"There are already a number of people who use (special) glasses to play games," says 3D Business Development Manager Ian Matthew. "We will be targeting those people."

The company is also targeting movie fans. Sharp is working with DDD to make sure the monitor will support DDD's technology for presenting 2D movies in 3D.

According to Sharp, the LL-151-3D is the first stand-alone monitor that can be used for both 3D and 2D work. Other companies offer no-glasses 3D displays, but those products can't handle conventional 2D imaging. You can switch the LL-151-3D between 3D and 2D modes using either a hardware switch or, via USB, a software-based signal. Sharp uses the same technology in its Sharp Actius RD3D notebook, available since October 2003.

3D on Two Planes

All 3D systems must send separate images to the viewer's left and right eyes. Sharp gets around the need to use glasses, which filter one eye's image from the other, through what is called a parallax barrier: The monitor uses two LCD panels, one in front of the other. The front panel displays the image. The back one angles the light coming from the backlight, sending alternate columns to the left and right eyes. In 2D mode, the rear panel simply shuts off so that all pixels are seen by both eyes.

The problem with this 3D method is that it works only if you're positioned correctly. Move your head a couple of inches, and you're looking at a 2D picture. Normally, this means only one person can watch, sitting directly in front of the screen. But Matthew says that the screen has four extra 3D viewing areas, so that five people can watch a 3D presentation--as long as their heads are in the correct places.

The LL-151-3D measures 15 inches, with a native 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. But that means that, in 3D, each eye sees only 512 by 768 resolution. Matthew says the brain fuses the two images, compensating for part of the resolution loss.

"Everybody who sees the display's 3D image says, 'It's definitely not half but it's not full,'" he says.

The LCD also comes with built-in stereo speakers, a backlight with a 500:1 contrast ratio, and software for creating, managing, and pulling information from 3D photos. It will work with any graphics card and software that support the OpenGL 3D standard.

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