November 04, 2003

3D Laptop LCD Technology

To create its 3-D effect, Sharp fused together two LCD screens.

story link

Laptop expands the usability of 3-D imaging

By Tamara Chuang
Knight Ridder News Service

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- 3-D movies aren't limited to movie theaters and amusement parks any more.

Sharp Systems of America has unveiled a notebook computer that lets users see 3-D flicks -- without wearing those dorky glasses with red and blue lenses.

The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Huntington Beach, is the first to sell 3-D computers to the public, not counting a few small businesses that make 3-D monitors, such as Dimension Technologies in New York.

Sharp already has sold 1.5 million cell phones with 3-D displays in Japan since introducing them last November.

The intended market for the $3,299 Actius RD3D includes computer-aided designers, such as those at automobile companies; medical professionals, including brain researchers; and computer gamers who like to immerse themselves in their games. Each of those could benefit from a 3-D machine, Sharp says.

For most people, the price puts the new laptop out of reach, said Steve Baker, a PC analyst for market researcher The NPD Group.

Sharp is not among the top five PC sellers in the United States, according to NPD.

"If neat technology was all it took, Apple would have a 50 percent market share," Baker said. "It's about pricing, marketing and standards. When you bring everything together, a 3-D notebook has a lot of appeal -- but only for some customers."

New owners of Sharp's 3-D computer can get immediate gratification. As part of the package, Sharp includes a collection of 3-D movie trailers and photo software to create 3-D images. Buyers also get three 3-D games from Electronic Arts -- James Bond 007: Nightfire, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2.

For some computer users, 3-D visuals already are routine. But graphic designers and scientists who work in 3-D can't lug around a heavy workstation.

"Professionals who already use 3-D will go for this because of the portability," said Ian Matthew, 3-D business development manager at Sharp. "We think gamers will be early adopters because there are already 3-D games."

Sharp estimates that nearly 1,000 3-D games already exist. To play them with a standard computer, gamers must wear special goggles, much like the flimsy 3-D movie glasses.

To create its 3-D effect, Sharp fused together two LCD screens. When users touch a button, the back screen starts blocking light so it can't reach every other vertical line of pixels on the front screen. It's a bit like looking through a picket fence.

Just as in the real world, each eye of the viewer sees an image from a slightly different perspective. If you look at the Actius screen with a hand over your left eye, the view from your right eye is skewed to the left. The opposite is true for the other eye.

With both eyes uncovered, your brain kicks into action -- it creates a sense of depth from the two slightly offset pictures.

The effect takes getting accustomed to. The user must sit directly in front of the Sharp display. It is blurry at first because you really are looking at two offset pictures of the same image. After a while, your brain adjusts and you see a 3-D image that seems to extend out from the screen. But move slightly out of position and you lose clarity.

The 10.2-pound notebook includes a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, DVD burner and a 64 MB graphics card.

With two screens, it is 2.1 inches thick -- not as thin as most notebooks. Battery life is 1.3 hours.

For now, you won't be able to see or try an Actius RD3D before you buy. While Sharp plans to sell the computer at retail stores, currently the new laptop is only available online, at

Posted by Craig at November 4, 2003 02:20 PM