PureDepth Inc of the US announced that it established its Japanese unit at the end of April 2009 and explained the characteristics and commercialization schedule of a display based on its "MLD (multi-layer display)" technology and its potential markets.
The company made the announcement at a press conference in Tokyo May 20, 2009.
The MLD technology can realize a variety of image displays that are not possible with existing LCD displays. By stacking two LCD panels with a certain space between them, the technology can enhance color and contrast and enable users to view 3D images of characters, pictures, etc without special glasses.
The 3D images are realized by displaying images that are identical except for brightness and size on the two panels. The exact reason why images look three-dimensional with this method is unclear. Nevertheless, this display has the following advantages compared with existing naked eye 3D displays that use a lenticular lens.
(1) Viewers do not experience the side effects common to 3D images, such as dizziness, headache and eyestrain. (2) Resolution is not compromised even when images are displayed in 3D. (3) Two-dimensional (2D) images of, for example, characters can be displayed in combination with and at the same time as 3D images. (4) There is no distinct border of the viewable angle (the angle at which images appear in 3D).
The technology has already been commercialized. For example, PureDepth signed a license contract with Sanyo Electric Co Ltd in 2006. And Sanyo Electric System Solutions Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Sanyo Electric, manufactured panels using the MLD technology based on this contract. The panels were adopted by companies including Pachislo (gambling machine) maker Abilit Corp, which used the technology in Pachislo machines the company released in November 2008.
PureDepth also went into partnership with major US-based slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) in 2006 and sold 20.1-inch displays that can be used in slot machines to casinos in Las Vegas and other facilities in 2008, according to PureDepth.
Moreover, the company will start volume production of 12.1-inch displays in Korea within this week. The production was contracted to Kortek Corp of Korea, which manufactures the 20.1-inch display too.
PureDepth aims to incorporate the MLD into mobile game devices and smartphones in the future.
"We have already prototyped a smartphone equipped with the MLD," said Yutaka Nagata, general manager of PureDepth Japan KK.
Furthermore, the company has a medium-term plan to enter the market of the "public information display," or so-called digital signage.
Patent issues looming
The MLD technology is remarkably similar to the "Depth Fused 3D (DFD)" method, which NTT Cyber Space Laboratories claims to have "discovered in 1998 and announced in 2000." NTT IT of the NTT group manufactured panels using this method, including a large 48-inch panel co-developed with Hitachi Ltd and other companies in 2007, and exhibited some of them at museums, etc (See related article). However, they have not yet been mass produced, according to sources.
Meanwhile, PureDepth claims that the basic patent of the MLD was granted to the company in 2001. The application for this patent was made by Deep Video Imaging Ltd of New Zealand, the forerunner of PureDepth. As a result, the patents obtained by the two companies coexist at present.
"The important point is that they (NTT) do not have products that are accepted by the market, while we do have them," PureDepth said.