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Sony, others to create 3D standards

Several high-tech companies including Sony and Sanyo set up a consortium to create technical and safety standards for bringing 3D displays to desktops, laptops and cell phones.

Several high-tech companies including Sony and Sanyo have officially unveiled a consortium to create technical and safety standards for bringing three-dimensional displays to desktops, laptops and cell phones.

The aptly named 3D Consortium was founded by a group of five Japanese manufacturers--Itochu, NTT Data and Sharp are the remaining three--which have begun to develop technology for screens where two-dimensional images stand out like holograms. The consortium had been discussed in the past but until now had not been formally fleshed out.

To see images or run programs in 3D on these screens, users won't need special glasses or additional software. Sharp already sells a cell phone with a 3D screen for the NTT DoCoMo network in Japan and is showing off a 3D notebook at conferences and press events that can run a 3D version of the game Quake.

"We're definitely looking at larger form factors," said Greg Nakagawa, senior vice president of Sharp Systems of America. "This year might be a good time" for larger devices.

The consortium will look at a variety of issues. One of the first subcommittees will examine establishing methods for tweaking software applications so that they can take advantage of 3D screens. Hardware input-output specifications will be the subject of another subcommittee.

Health and safety will also be a concern, Nakagawa added. Three-dimensional monitors consist of two TFT panels separated by a parallax barrier. Each eye receives a slightly different image, which creates the illusion of depth.

While objects in the background do not pose problems, viewing objects in the foreground can cause the eyes to shift back and forth rapidly.

"As you get closer and closer, there is more eye strain," Nakagawa said.

Other companies participating in the consortium include Microsoft, Kodak and Olympus.