Sharp Has 3D for Mobile on Tap

Sharp said it plans to start making this year advanced 3D displays for cellphones and other mobile devices that don’t require special viewing glasses, betting that demand for 3D images will grow beyond movie theatres and living rooms to portable machines.

Stirring demand for small-sized displays is important for Japanese LCD panel suppliers after they suffered sluggish demand for panels designed for portable electronics due to a sharp slide in mobile phone sales in the domestic market.

Sharp launched mobile phones and PCs equipped with a display that enables users to watch 3D images without glasses in the early 2000s.

But they have not really caught on because of such factors as bulkiness, insufficient brightness and the lack of 3D contents.

Sharp since then has developed brighter and thinner 3D displays with higher resolution and a touch panel function.

“In the 2D era, contents and infrastructure have spread from movies to homes, and from homes to mobile devices,” Sharp executive managing officer Yoshisuke Hasegawa told a news conference on Friday.

“We believe the same thing will happen with 3D. Three-dimensional images that mostly inhabit big screens now are about to hit mobile terminals.”

Hasegawa, head of Sharp’s LCD business, did not disclose a sales target for the new 3D display.

3-D to give industry a boost?

Consumer electronics makers are scrambling to launch 3D TVs this year, hoping the technology will be as big a boost for the industry as the transition to color TVs from black and white.

Panasonic and Samsung Electronics have already released 3D models, while Sony is planning to start offering 3D TVs in June.

But analysts have said the need for special 3D glasses may keep consumers from adopting the technology quickly.

Mobile electronics that let users enjoy 3D images without special glasses have been around for some time, since people tend to watch the display from a fixed distance and with a fixed angle on personal devices such as mobile phones, making it technologically less challenging to offer a 3D function.

Japanese game maker Nintendo Co said last month it planned to launch a new model of its DS handheld game console that allows users to play 3D games without using special glasses.

Hasegawa said the company has already received inquiries on the new product from mobile phone makers and other potential customers, but declined to say if Nintendo is one of them.

Shares of Sharp, the world’s fourth-largest LCD TV maker behind Samsung, Sony and LG Electronics Inc, closed 2.7 percent higher at 1,209 yen on Friday, outperforming the Tokyo stock market’s electrical machinery index, which gained 0.8 percent.

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