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Sharp to ship 3D notebook

Wants to encourage content development

Sharp plans to release a notebook next month with a 15in display capable of showing stereoscopic 3D images.

The 2.8GHz Pentium 4-based Mebius PC-RD3D release follows demand from content creators for a machine capable of displaying true 3D content rather than a 2D rendition of a 3D scene, the way almost all 3D imagery is handled these days.

"We had a lot of requests asking us to build a base machine that can serve to develop 3D content. The PC is our answer," said Makoto Nakamura, division general manager of Sharp's mobile computing systems division,



EE Times.

Sharp developed its 3D screen technology over a year ago. It comprises two LCD panels - so it's not cheap - one on top of the other. Between them are what's called a 'parallax barrier', which essentially makes one display show an image for the left eye, and the other an image for the right. The two images are slightly different, but the observer's brain stitches them together into a single 3D image field. No special glasses are needed.

The electronics controlling the parallax barrier can switch 3D mode off, allowing the screen to operate as a standard 2D monitor.

At a demo last year, Sharp used a modified version of Quake II to show what a difference the stereoscopic 3D mode makes. Many of those who tried it quickly found the experience a strain on the eyes. Enough folk get severe motion sickness playing games like Quake in 2D mode, let alone when rockets and grenades really do appear to shoot out of the screen at you.

Still, the Quake II demo did show how relatively easy it is to convert 2D content to true 3D. Indeed, Sharp's upcoming notebook is based on a standard Nvidia GeForce 4 Go 440 graphics chip.

The notebook will ship first in Japan, on 27 October, with a US roll-out soon after. It is expected to retail for around $2989 - up to $600 more than a similary-spec'd machine with a standard 2D panel.

Sharp expects to ship around 1000 a month, initially, but success won't come without content. That said, without such a machine to encourage 3D content development, we're never going to see true 3D games and apps. Someone has to start the ball rolling, and that's what Sharp has decided it must do. It expects to see interest among professional 3D users - CAD, medical imaging and so on - as much if not more than gamers.

And the company has already had some success with 3D screens developed for cellphones, which it launched last year. The handsets are sold by NTT DoCoMo.

The notebook will ship with basic 3D content creation and viewer tools to help kick-start development work. Meanwhile, Sharp hopes 3D software developers will develop plug-ins to allow their applications and games to support its screen technology. ®

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