If you thought the iPhone screen's two-finger touch was cool then you should see a prototype from Sharp on show at the Ceatec exhibition, which opened on Tuesday in Makuhari Messe.
The 3.5-inch screen integrates an optical scanner pixel alongside each LCD pixel. This means the screen can scan objects such as name cards placed on its surface and recognize fingers or other objects. Because it's determining the position of fingers from a scanner input and not a touch screen, it's possible to touch the screen in more than two places and have all fingers recognized.
Additionally the lack of a touch screen or other filters means the image from the screen remains clear and bright.
In a demonstration on the company's stand at Ceatec the display showed a simple musical keyboard. Different tones could be produced by pressing different combinations of notes.
Sharp also demonstrated the screen working as a name card scanner. It has a resolution of 320 pixels by 480 pixels and completed the scanning task in about a second.
The panel is still a prototype but commercialization is expected in the first half of next year. Samples are already in the hands of potential customers but Sharp wouldn't name those companies.
Potential applications are plentiful. For example, a cell phone could use the screen to offer both a touch-screen interface and a scanner for name cards, barcodes or to read fingerprints for security. Or it could be used in a gaming device where players use multiple fingers to repel opponents.
It isn't the first time a scanner has been shown integrated into an LCD panel. At the Electronic Display Expo in Tokyo in 2003, Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology unveiled a prototype LCD with a scanner built among the screen's pixels, but it never became a commercial product. It was much slower than Sharp's panel, taking about seven seconds to scan a name card.
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