Sharp Conjures Up World's First 3D Camera For Phones—and the Nintendo 3DS?S

Designed for mobile devices such as phones, digital cameras or even netbooks, Sharp's 3D camera module will start mass production this year—meaning within the next couple of years we could be shooting image-popping HD 3D video.

While Sharp isn't known for phones in our parts, if you walk into any store in Japan you'll be bowled over by dozens of their candy-colored models. These 3D cameras could first be trialled in Japan, but if successful be licensed out to other manufacturers to tantalize us with eye-popping possibilities.

The obvious question, of course, is why you'd want a 3D camera on your phone in the first place? Fujifilm's FinePix Real 3D W1 digital camera hasn't exactly taken off (do you know anyone who's even considered buying one, let alone laid down 600 big ones for it?), so why should a 3D video camera on a phone?

Again, it seems like one of those situations where British explorer George Mallory's reply when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest ("because it's there") seems suitable. Or, perhaps more people want to make their very own Avatars than I originally thought.

While Sharp's press release on the subject mentioned simply "digital cameras, mobile phones, and smartphones," we must remember that Nintendo's 3DS is rumored to be using Sharp's glasses-less parallax barrier technology in its displays. With the latest crop of DSis having dual cameras it's not entirely unfathomable that these 3D camera modules could be first seen in a certain portable gaming console—due for release sometime before April 2011.

However it's used, Sharp's 3D camera will be able to capture 720p video in 3D, an industry first for mobile devices. Does that sound like something you'd use often on your phone, or will it be relegated to the novelty folder of your apps? [JapanCorp]

Osaka, May 12, 2010 - (JCN Newswire) - Sharp Corporation has developed a 3D camera module for mobile devices capable of capturing high-definition (720p)(1) 3D video images, an industry first.(2) Sharp will start shipping samples in July. Mass production of these modules will begin within 2010.

3D images are composed of two views taken using two cameras that simultaneously capture separate images for the right and left eyes. Consequently, a 3D camera requires peripheral circuitry to apply image processing to the two images, for example, to adjust color or to correct positioning between the images from the two cameras. Manufacturers have thus been pursuing designs that reduce the size and weight of 3D cameras and seeking ways to shorten their development period.

The current 3D camera module developed by Sharp incorporates functions to process the image data output by the left and right cameras, including 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. Further, in developing this camera module, Sharp applied high-density mounting technology nurtured over long years of experience in camera module development to achieve a compact form. Embedding this camera module in mobile devices such as digital cameras, mobile phones, and smartphones will contribute to the development of a wide range of new, innovative communications tools.

In the future, Sharp will be opening up new 3D markets based on 3D display technologies, including small/medium-size and large-size 3D LCDs, as well as on 3D input device technologies such as 3D camera module.

(1) 720 effective scanning lines (progressive scanning system). Resolution: 1280 H x 720 V pixels.
(2) As of May 12, 2010, for camera modules used in mobile devices.