Sharp has developed software which allows LCDs (liquid crystal displays) to support more than one billion colours, the company announced today.

Developers at Sharp have researched how human eyes perceive brightness and colours and applied their findings to one of the characteristics of an LCD - the fact that it can control brightness and the colour of each pixel.

Current LCD hardware can hold up to eight bits per RGB (red green and blue) level of colours, equivalent to 16.77 million colours, according to Heihachiro Ochiai, a spokesman for Sharp. The new technology makes these 8bit RGB colours look like 10bit RGB colours on a display, he said.

Recently, computer software companies such as Microsoft have been developing software with 10 to 12bits per RGB level of colours that cannot be displayed on the current LCDs, said Ochiai. Using this new development, users will be able to see the displays generated by the software in full colours.

Software can also be used in the areas LCDs have not been able to cover before. For example, x-ray pictures, which are reproduced on films in order to show smooth and detailed greyscale gradations, will be able to be displayed on LCDs.