NEC adds privacy layer to future screens

Restricted viewing angles are now possible without quality loss.

We've all seen computer screens that are designed to be viewed only from directly in front to prevent snoopers from sneaking a sideways glance, but the price of privacy has always been severe image deterioration. NEC's newest LCD technology appears to offer a solution.

Privacy filters appear most frequently in the screens of ATMs and cash registers, and there are a few laptop PCs that come with a stick-on filter that prevents side-on viewing. However, the roaring popularity of the technology in mobile phones in Japan may have prompted NEC LCD Technologies to address the quality issue.

Display in full effect

The company's new displays can not only switch between wide and narrow viewing angles, but can also do so without affecting the brightness or sharpness of the image.

This is possible thanks to a polarising plate at the back of the new panel that disperses light across either 140 degrees or 30 degrees. Older methods control the angle using a filter at the front of the screen, which seriously impacts the picture.

For now, the angle has to be set during manufacturing and there are only two possible fields of vision, but NEC hopes to develop the technology to be more flexible in future.

The days of having to bend your knees and squint to use a cash machine and of nosey-parkers on trains peering at your laptop may be over by as soon as 2008.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.