Sony Bows 360-Degree Stereo 3D Display

A cool story on yesterday showed what may be the face of Sony’s next 3D offering. It’s a cylinder shaped device (think nuclear power plant cooling tower shape) that Sony claims "will change the public’s perception of 3D implementation in consumer products forever." Bold words, yes but after all it is Sony, and even with a blemish or two over the years, America still has a love affair with this CE company.

The "Sony Insider" story doesn’t give us much to go on-technology wise, beyond telling us it’s a 360-degree three-dimensional display where stereoscopic images can be seen from any direction without wearing glasses. The display is 96 x 128 (h and v) LED array at "24 bit full-color." In this prototype, small size can be used on a desktop (diameter 13cm - height 27cm). It is designed for simultaneous multiple viewing (from all angles) and Sony believes first applications could be in "medical image visualization, web shopping, virtual pets, art appreciation, 3D photo frame, and 3D telephone and (oh yes…) 3D television."

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Not feeling totally satisfied with the scant details provided by Sony, we dug around in our trusty Large Display Report (LDR) and Mobile Display Report (MDR) archives. Using the search term "360-degree cylindrical display" put us on the trail of a Germering, Germany based company, Kinoton that makes a 360-degree system based on rotating LED light arms. (see LDR, July-09 p. 40.) The product "…operates in full color and produces three SVGA pictures, each spanning 120 degrees of the cylinder. Limited by data transfer rates, the three displays are always showing the same picture. Kinoton’s product is called Litefast and is used at airports, train stations and for corporate promotions." Is Sony a pocket-sized version of this (and other similar display technologies?

If so, the real innovation may have been Sony getting this large, and expensive display technology into a more portable (consumer) format. Say, isn’t that what the Japanese used to do really well? (Remember the first Ampex VTR selling for $50K?)

Litefast "Mini" is a table-top model with three rotating bars, that sells for about $4K, the floor standing Litefast models "Graphics" and "Magic" have four rotating bars and sell for about $44,996. The largest, the Litefast "Motion" has eight bars and sells for $89,999.

Dynascan also produces a similar display that uses thousands of LEDs on a rotating drum. We don’t yet know what Sony is doing, but they could have developed a flat surface with LEDs that is rapidly rotated. This would create a more volumetric image instead of the cylindrical images from Kinoton and Dynascan.

The take-away here is that technologies demonstrated in professional and commercial applications can still be innovated into the consumer space. Perhaps we will know more about the Sony approach in a little while.

By Steve Sechrist, Display Daily