Five major Japanese electronics firms announced an agreement Wednesday to market video telephones especially for home use, allowing callers to see still images of the person on the other end of the line.
The companies said the agreement calls for them to produce equipment with standardized specifications so users can combine parts from different companies.
The five companies are Matsushita Communication Industrial Co., an affiliate of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.; Mitsubishi Electric Corp.; NEC Corp.; Sanyo Electric Co., and Sony Corp.
Unlike telephones that can transmit television-like pictures, the Japanese models transmit still pictures only. Because still video phones use existing home telephone lines, pictures cannot be transmitted during conversation.
One model in use allows the sender to pose, push a button and in a few seconds a still image will appear on the screen at the other end of the line. A new image can be sent about every 30 seconds.
Mitsubishi and Sony now market still video telephones exclusively for business use, but their products are not compatible.
The new products will employ specifications worked out by the Telecommunication Technology Committee, which comprises 126 domestic and foreign makers of electronic equipment and consumer representatives.
"Our principal aim is to develop the market for home use," a spokesman for the group said.
The official said still video phones will be easily connected to existing home telephones and cost users no extra charges beyond ordinary telephone rates.
The video phones, which will begin hitting the market this month, will cost about $400.
Sony officials say they expect to export the video telephones but have not set a price for export models.
The equipment combines a camera, a display monitor, and signal processing and transmission systems.
The Telecommunication Technology Committee completed research on standardized specifications in April, enabling the five companies to produce compatible equipment.