Eyes on with Sony's 360 degree 3D display

Sony is showing the prototype display in Tokyo for the first time

Sony on Thursday unveiled an impressive 3D display that can be viewed from any direction. The screen, development of which was announced earlier this week, is on show until Sunday at the DC Expo in Tokyo.

The screen sits in the upper half of a black, circular case that's 13 centimeters in diameter and 27 centimeters tall -- about the size of a small blender. Sony is keeping the technology used in the display under wraps except to say it uses an LED light source.

The produced image appears to have depth to it and can be viewed through 360 degrees around the device.Objects displayed on the screen included a globe, car, cartoon character and model.

Sony created the objects either in 3D on a computer or by keeping them still while taking photographs from all around. As a result it's possible to walk around the display and view each object from any angle on the horizontal plane.

So, for example, when a model's head was being displayed a visitor could walk to the other side of the screen and see the back of her head. The screen has a resolution of 96 pixels by 128 pixels, which doesn't sound like it would make for a very good image but is surprisingly good, especially when images of people are displayed.

Sony has two of the displays on show at the DC Expo, both of which are early prototypes -- and possibly the only two prototypes judging by the "No.1" and "No.2" stickers on them -- but bigger screens could be on the way.

While it has taken Sony roughly three years to develop the prototypes, it will not take a great leap to make versions with larger screens, said Naoya Eguchi, general manager of the photonics development department at Sony's core device development group. He hinted that a larger version would be ready sometime in 2010.

Sony sees several potential uses for the screen.

"This is a very good display for educational purposes and there are many design applications," said Ryoji Chubachi, vice chairman of Sony, in an interview. "There are so many, I'm expecting to accept many proposals from visitors."

As for when it might come to market, Chubachi said that for now Sony is soliciting ideas on how it might be used and then will consider future plans.

"It all depends on the application," he said regarding commercialization. "If we can develop a good application then we'll invest more."

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Martyn Williams

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