Electronics manufacturer Sharp has developed a new type of LCD (liquid crystal display) that allows viewers to enjoy the benefits of three-dimensional (3D) effects without wearing special spectacles.

The display gives the illusion of 3D by projecting different images to the right and left eyes, tricking the viewer's brain into perceiving depth in the image.

To do this, Sharp has divided a TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD into vertical strips and, by controlling the direction of the back-light, directed the images on alternate strips at either the left or right eye. Images on odd-numbered strips are directed at the viewer's right eye and those on even-numbered strips at the left eye.

One of the display's strengths is that it can electronically switch between showing 3D effects and conventional two-dimensional (2D) images, according to Mikio Katayama, general manager of Sharp's mobile-LCD group.

When the display needs to show 2D images, the Sharp display uses a switching LCD layer placed at the back of the parallax barrier to let the back-light through to both eyes, switching the display from 3D to 2D mode.

This is not the first time a monitor manufacturer has attempted to add another dimension for our viewing pleasure. It follows the launch earlier this year by Korean manufacturer GTT of 3D screens that use separate layers of pixels to create the illusion of depth.

Like GTT Sharp hopes 3D displays will be adapted to applications such as entertainment content, medical practice, product presentation, encyclopaedias and online shopping and gaming.

"Game makers are already producing 3D games using a polygon engine, and since a conventional display cannot show 3D illusion, developers put the graphics back to fit into 2D screens," he said.

As the company has a higher profile over here than GTT, we can hope to eventually see these screens available in the UK. They are expected to go on sale early next year although no price has yet been set.