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Sharp ships 3-D camera module for mobile devices

Sharp began shipping samples this month of a new add-on 3-D camera module that allows users of mobile devices such as cell phones, digital cameras and netbooks to record 3-D HD images. According to the company, it’s set to go on sale by the end of the year.

The new Sharp external plug-in module captures 720p full-motion video in 3-D, an industry first for consumer mobile devices, according to the company. Images can be viewed auto-stereoscopically (single viewer, no glasses) on 3-D-capable mobile devices or on a larger screen using polarized glasses.

Three-dimensional images are composed of two views taken with two cameras that simultaneously capture separate images for the right and left eyes. Consequently, a 3-D camera requires peripheral circuitry to apply image processing to the two images and converge them for stereoscopic viewing. Manufacturers have thus been pursuing designs that reduce the size and weight of 3-D cameras and are seeking ways to shorten their development period.

The current 3-D camera module (developed by Sharp) internally processes image data output by compact 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 3-D images to be captured in high-resolution HD mode. When developing this camera module, Sharp applied high-density mounting technology to achieve a compact form.

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

Some might ask why one would want to use a 3-D camera on a mobile device? Maybe British explorer George Mallory said it best when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, “Because it's there.”