Companies chasing LCD innovations

Several of the latest innovations in display technology for portable electronics devices will be on display at the Ceatec Japan 2003 exhibition in Japan this week. The new and prototype displays offer a number of different advantages over existing displays and point to brighter, clearer and more compact screens coming to gadgets in the future.

They can be divided into two main types: those that improve on current displays to provide a better picture and those that are physically smaller and will help bring size reductions to portable electronics.

In the former camp are displays from Sharp Corp., Omron Corp. and Casio Computer Co. Ltd. while the latter includes NEC Electronics Corp. and, again, Sharp.

Among Sharp's displays are four that the company is calling "mobile ASV" (Active Super View) LCDs. The Osaka-based company, which is well known for its LCD technology, announced details of the displays on Friday in Tokyo.

The displays have a viewing angle of 160 degrees in both the horizontal and vertical planes and this symmetry means they can be used in both landscape and portrait mode with no impact on image quality. That's becoming an important feature because a growing number of portable devices, particularly PDAs (personal digital assistants) and also some cellular telephones such as those with a digital camera function, have features and software that can be used in either orientation.

The four models include a 1.5-inch (3.75-centimeter) display with a resolution of 540 pixels by 240 pixels designed for use with digital still cameras, a 2.5-inch (6.25-centimeter) model with 320 pixel by 240 pixel (QVGA) resolution for cellular telephones, a 4-inch (10-centimeter) model for PDAs and portable televisions, and a 6.5-inch (16.25-centimeter) model for car navigation systems.

All four displays have a relatively high contrast ratio of 300:1 which means, combined with their resolution, they should be able to deliver a bright and sharp picture.

Omron Corp. will also be showing off its latest LCD research and a new technology that it says can increase the brightness of a display. The company has built an array of nanoprisms and microprisms on the front of the LCD. The prisms, which range in size from a fifth of a millimeter to three-thousandths of a millimeter in size, better direct the flow of light through the panel and keep the amount of reflected light to a minimum, said Omron.

The result, according to Kyoto, Japan-based Omron, is a display that offers the higher brightness and contrast of a backlit display with the lower power consumption of a frontlit display.

Two of the new displays at Ceatec Japan 2003 have been designed to meet growing demand for mobile gaming and graphics.

Casio Computer Co. Ltd. plans to unveil a 2.4-inch (6-centimeter) QVGA resolution prototype display that can show images with the illusion of three dimensions (3D). The 3D display can show 262,000 colors and follows both the commercialization of a similar display for cellular telephones by Sharp earlier this year and the formation of a consortium to promote 3D displays and associated technology. Casio is a member of that group.

Another graphics-focused display will be unveiled by NEC Electronics Corp. The company has developed a 2.4-inch (6-centimeter) display with embedded control circuitry and a graphics processor. The graphics engine in the chip was designed by a Finnish company, Bitboys Oy, for NEC and its inclusion with the LCD driver means a separate graphics chip is not needed. The new engine also offers superior performance to competing products and is the first for a cellular handset capable of curve rendering, said NEC Electronics.

Another new display from Sharp is also a space saver.

The company has combined flat speaker technology, licensed from U.K.-based New Transducers Ltd., with an LCD panel so that the two are integrated and an additional speaker is not needed. Sharp expects applications for such a display to range from cellular telephones to portable televisions, DVD players and PDAs.

Ceatec 2003 takes place between Oct. 7 and Oct. 11 in Japan.

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