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3D flat screens, coming your way

Sharp is showing off a prototype of a 15-inch flat-panel display for desktop computers, due out this year, that projects a three-dimensional picture.

Consumer-electronics manufacturer Sharp says is on track to bring a 3D flat-panel display to market before the end of the year.

At the CeBit trade show in Hannover, Germany, the company is demonstrating a prototype of a device that projects a three-dimensional picture that can be seen without the assistance of special visual aids.

It has been designed to send a different image to each eye--so that the person looking at the screen sees in 3D, so long as they are standing at the correct distance from the monitor.

This technology is already used in Sharp's SH251iS mobile phone on sale in Japan, and it was reported late last year that Sharp was working on liquid-crystal displays for notebooks and desktop computers to display 3D images.

The company told ZDNet UK last week that the 3D flat-panel displays for desktop PCs should be available in Europe this year.

"The 3D monitor should be launched commercially before the end of this year," a Sharp representative said. It is expected to cost about $3,190 (3,000 euros).

The prototype on display is a 15-inch flat-panel display. Sharp explained that the screen contains a "parallax barrier" thin-film transistor (TFT) panel that splits the light generated by the monitor in such a way that alternate columns of pixels are seen by each eye. Thus, each eye sees a slightly different image.

For this to work, the person has to be positioned directly in front of the monitor and at the correct distance away--which appears to be about 15 inches to 20 inches.

Sharp demonstrated how the 3D monitor could be used to improve game play, by showing a demo of "Quake" in which the terrain, monsters and other items appear in 3D. The company also believes that its new system could have applications in sectors such as medical imaging and molecular modeling.

Sharp earlier this month said that 3D notebooks would likely appear by the end of the year. Additionally, the company is part of a consortium to work out standards for 3D viewing.

ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden reported from London.