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Sharp Announces 3D Camera For Mobile Phones

The HD system uses two small lenses that can simultaneously capture separate images to create synchronized, 720p video images.

Sharp Corp. said Wednesday it is planning to begin production on the world’s first three-dimensional camera system for mobile phones and other portable devices by the end of the year.

The consumer electronics leader said in a statement that the module will be capable of capturing high-definition (720p) video images.

The system uses two small lenses that can simultaneously capture separate images for the left and right eyes to create synchronized, 3D pictures, said Miyuki Nakayama, a Sharp spokeswoman. The company said it has used high-density mounting technology to keep the size down. Other functions to process the image data output by the left and right cameras include color synchronizing processing to adjust color and brightness; timing synchronizing processing to synchronize the timing of the video signals; and optical axis control processing to correct positioning.

In addition, Fast Readout Technology rapidly transfers video data from the image sensor, enabling 3D images to be captured in high-resolution HD mode. The company said it expects to see the module used in digital cameras and smartphones.

The 3D component shouldn’t be expensive enough to dramatically change the cost of phones, said Avi Greengart, research director, consumer devices, at Current Analysis. “Most phones, at least in the U.S., are subsidized when you buy them with a two-year contract,” said Greengart. “This is more indicative of a trend of trying to come up with 3D content and the proliferation of 3D in general.”

Since people are increasingly using their phones to capture images rather than carrying around a separate camera, Greengart said this is a good sales gimmick, but that the technology to display those images is not widespread yet. “For now I would call it definitely bleed edge and something to keep an eye on … but it’s still a little early.”

Sharp said it will start shipping samples in July and mass production will follow within a few months, Nakayama said, adding that further details, including prices, were not available.

Competition in 3D technology is intensifying among major electronics makers. Last month Sharp said it would begin selling liquid crystal televisions showing 3D images before the summer.

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