Sharp has demonstrated a 3.5in LCD screen that integrates an optical scanner and can be used to scan objects such as name cards.

The screen, on show at the Ceatec exhibition, features an optical scanner for each LCD pixel, and could also be used to recognise fingers or other objects. Because it determines the position of fingers using a scanner input and not a touchscreen, it's possible to touch the screen in more than two places and have all fingers recognised. Additionally, the lack of a touchscreen or other filters means the image from the screen remains clear and bright.

Potential applications are plenty. For example a future mobile phone could use the screen and offer users both a touchscreen interface and scanner for name cards, barcodes or fingerprint recognition for security. Or it could find use in a computer gaming device where players have to use multiple fingers to repel opponents.

In a demonstration on the company's stand at Ceatec the display showed a simple musical keyboard. Different tones could be produced by pressing different combinations of notes.

Sharp LCD scanner

Sharp also demonstrated the screen working as a name card scanner. It has a resolution of 320x480 pixels and completed the scanning task in about one second.

The panel is still a prototype but commercialisation is expected in the first half of next year. Samples are already in the hands of potential customers but Sharp wouldn't name those companies.

The screen on show isn't the first time a scanner has been integrated into an LCD panel. At the Electronic Display Expo in Tokyo in April 2003 Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology unveiled a prototype LCD with a scanner built between the screen's pixels, but it never became a commercial product. It was also much slower than Sharp's panel, taking about seven seconds to scan a name card.