Sharp unveils notebook with 3D display

Sharp has unveiled a notebook computer with a display that gives the illusion of depth and can display objects in three dimensions without the use of special glasses.

The new notebook is scheduled to be on sale in Japan and the U.S. before the end of this year.

The PC-RD3D is the first computing product from Sharp to feature the 3D LCD (liquid crystal display) technology. It is being targeted at developers writing application software or creating content that will make use of 3D technology either in the notebook or subsequent products, Miyuki Nakayama, a spokeswoman for Sharp in Tokyo, said on Thursday.

"The notebook is for content developers writing business applications, such as for CAD (computer aided design) or for medical use," she said.

Based on an Intel Pentium 4 processor running at 2.8GHz, the machine has 512M bytes of memory, a 60G byte hard disk drive and an Nvidia GeForce 4 440 Go display adapter, Sharp said in a statement.

The display, which can be switched between conventional 2D mode and 3D mode, is a 15 inch model with XGA (Extended Graphics Array) resolution (1,024 pixel by 768 pixel) and is based on a 3D display system developed at Sharp Laboratories of Europe in Oxford, England.

It consists of two LCD panels, one mounted on top of the other. The front panel is a conventional TFT (thin film transistor) LCD and the rear panel is used to control the path of light within the display and thus the image that reaches the viewer's right and left eyes. For an image to appear to have depth and be in three dimensions, the right and left eye need to receive different information.

In 2D mode the switching panel allows an identical image to be delivered to each eye.

The fitting of an extra panel means extra cost and so the notebook is more expensive than an equivalent 2D-only machine. Sharp said it expects the computer will cost around ¥350,000 (US$2,990) when it goes on sale in Japan on Oct. 27.

The release of the computer comes at a time when several of Japan's largest computer and technology companies are beginning efforts to popularize 3D technology. The 3D Consortium is a cross-industry group formed earlier this year to promote the use of 3D displays and compatible content. Sharp is a founding member of the group alongside Itochu, NTT Data, Sanyo Electric and Sony. Over 60 other companies are involved.

It also follows the release in November last year of a cellular telephone handset that featured the same type of display. That handset, and a subsequent model, are both manufactured by Sharp and available through NTT DoCoMo.

"They are very popular, especially for games on the cellphones," Nakayama said.

All of these efforts are just the latest in a long history of 3D display technologies and promotional efforts that have so far failed to capture the attention and interest of consumers.

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Martyn Williams

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