With cell phones capable of displaying images in 3-D set to be released early next year, one Burbank company is positioning itself to be a major player on the field.

Burbank-based MasterImage is the patent holder of Cell Matrix, which allows 3-D images to be displayed on cell phones. The company's founder and chief executive, Younghoon Lee, said MasterImage provided 280,000 3-D LCD panels, worth $4.3 million, for Hitachi Corp. last year to rave reviews.

Sharp — a MasterImage competitor — and Nokia have also developed similar technologies.

"The world has experienced an explosive growth for 3-D cinema, as we've all seen," said MasterImage President James Bower. "From the box-office results, you're seeing the explosion of everybody starting to talk about 3-D and looking at 3-D for television."

But his company's goal is to create an entire new market for 3-D phones while keeping costs low for the consumer, Bower said. For an additional $10 to $15, he said, consumers will be able to buy a 3-D-ready cell phone.

"We have the infrastructure to support the [3-D] resolution," said Harris Lee, a senior engineer for MasterImage.

MasterImage's Cell Matrix technology is built into the handset's screen and allows users to view the 3-D images without special eyewear. MasterImage's technology also allows users to view an object up to a circumference of 180 degrees from a maximum distance of three meters, said Lee.

The phone will also allow the user to toggle between 2-D and 3-D displays.

By providing what can already be seen in theaters and on television, but making it mobile and shrinking it so that it fits in the palm of the hand — all without 3-D glasses — the company is positioned to tap a bigger market, Bower said.

"People tend not to buy televisions frequently as they do mobile phones," he said.

While the amount of 3-D content is relatively small at the moment, Bower hopes the new phones will introduce users to a new generation of content, including the ability to shoot 3-D movies and photographs to post to social networking sites, and the ability to browse mobile games and movie trailers.

"We think the content is going to grow much faster on a mobile phone than on television," Bower said, adding that it would eventually reach 3-D video conferencing. "You're going to see who you're talking to in 3-D."