Although it looks like a combined Blu-ray / HD-DVD drive may be some time in coming, Ricoh has developed a laser that can read both format discs.

The new device can not just read Blu-ray discs and HD-DVDs, but also CDs and DVDs using one pickup and one objective lens.

The announcement comes just before the International Optoelectronics Exhibition 2006 in Japan, where Ricoh will be showing off its new laser.

The development of a single laser head capable of reading both types of discs means that the cost of the eventual dual-format drives will come down in price.

Ricoh hopes to roll out the technology at the end of the year, and is hard at work at creating a dual-format-writing head, which needs a higher-powered laser.

Via HD Beat