Double-display LCD
A Sharp employee holds a mirror to show how people viewing the same liquid-crystal display from different angles see different images during the product's unveiling in Tokyo on Thursday.
updated 7/14/2005 3:46:50 PM ET 2005-07-14T19:46:50

Will the digital age bring an end to squabbles over which TV channel to watch? Sharp Corp. is coming out with a new product that may help. The Japanese electronics firm has developed a liquid-crystal display that shows totally different images to people viewing the screen from the left and the right.

The "two-way viewing-angle LCD," announced by the Japanese consumer electronics maker Thursday, can send light from the backlight separately to the right and left.

And so one person can be surfing the Internet, using the display as a PC screen, while another watches a downloaded movie or TV broadcast. It also works for watching two TV channels: one person can watch baseball while another watches a soap opera.

The display, which costs roughly double the standard kind, will go into mass production this month. Sharp will offer the product for worldwide sale, but the Osaka-based firm will also supply other manufacturers with the new displays for various products expected later this year, said spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama. She declined to disclose specifics.

Sharps says the technology offers many possibilities.

It could be used in cars so drivers can look at a map while the passenger watches a movie. Or at a store, sales clerks and clients can view different data on the same display simultaneously.

Another possible use is for billboards that display two kinds of advertisements depending on where viewers stand, the company said. The display will also work in the regular way and show a single image to all viewers.

But like any other new technology, it's not perfect.

One catch is that the images overlap if viewers stand right in front of the screen. Move a few centimeters (inches) to the left or right for a clear view.

Another is that users will have to work out a way to listen to the different sounds coming from the different channels. One solution is that one viewers would use earphones, according to Sharp.

Sharp says the technology will help beef up its lineup of digital home electronics, expected to be a big source of sales in coming years.

Replacing the old TV will be gadgets with computer capabilities that not only relay digital TV broadcast but also carry out computer functions, including connecting to the Net, storing a music library and editing video files.

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