There was a time when innovation and TVs didn’t seem to quite mix, with the tried and tested old models reigning supreme for years – the ones that weighed a tonne, took up a few square metres in the living room and were tough enough to last a few generations. Innovation seemed to be confined to just having more TVs in the room than normal.
If the movies are anything to go by, powerful executives (or drug dealers) from the 1980s liked to have a wall of TVs in their offices showing various images across a selection of news channels like one enormous Rubik’s Cube of information. The past decade has been different though with one new idea following another, from LCD to DLP to OLED and all manner of promises preceded by the letters H and D.
So after several years of rampaging progress, what’s next?
One good place to start from is late last week in Silicon Valley where privately funded start-up Prysm announced the public launch of its groundbreaking technology, Laser Phosphor Display (LPD). “LPD,” the world’s press were told, “is a new category of large format displays, with the lowest power consumption and environmental impact along with freeform flexibility, long-lasting performance and brilliant picture quality.”
With a weary tone, the New York Times’ Eric A Taub recently wrote on Prysm being the latest ‘next big thing’ in digital display before perking up once he got into the rather impressive nitty-gritty. He told how the 100-employee firm has been working for five years on LPD. “Like a CRT picture-tube TV, an image is created when phosphors on the screen are excited. But rather than use electrons, LPD technology uses a laser to hit the screen.”
He continued, “Because it works like a CRT display, no backlight is used for illumination.” The intended result should give you the best of all worlds; large screens with great black levels, high definition 3D capable resolution, very low power consumption, wide 180-degree viewing angle, completely recyclable components, no mercury used in production, and a long 65,000-hour panel life, with no burn-in issues.
The display is relatively deep by today’s standards coming in at about 5.5 inches and according to one man whose seen LPD in action, it does what it says on the tin. Stephen Shea, a senior associate with Shen Milsom Wilke, an audio-visual consulting firm told the Times that “The picture quality, vividness, and power consumption are incredible”.
Will the LPD work its way into your living room anytime soon though? Well not for a few years with Prysm concentrating on commercial targets, hoping to nail down contracts with arenas and shopping centres before concentrating on wooing John Q Public.
Some of you will of course be wondering why this rundown didn’t start specifically with 3D models such was their enormous presence at CES 2010 and across nearly every tech blog in the known universe over the past few weeks.
There is plenty of good news in this space certainly as, in the wake of the Avatar phenomenon, LG, Sony, Samsung and Panasonic have all brought 3D-ready models onto the market, while ESPN plans to roll the first official 3D sports network on June 11 of this year, just in time for the World Cup. Indeed, consumers are predicted to be spending around $17 billion worldwide on 3D TVs by the latter part of this decade according to research firm DisplaySearch.
However, 3D has seen some horse before the cart predictions before so let no one get too excited but now, more than ever, it seems the public are ready to accept the technology.
Of those launched recently, Sony are quite proud of their 3D-capable LED HDTV displays in their new Bravia lineup of the XBR-LX900, XBR-HX900 and the KDL-HD800 . Samsung too recently announced new LED 3D displays, as well as a new partnership with Dreamworks and Technicolor to create 3D Blu-ray content, optimized for Samsung’s 3D TV technology.
LG are also getting on the bandwagon with select 3D-ready models in their new Infinia LED HDTV series, meanwhile Panasonic also updated two of their Viera display series (the V20 and V25) to become full HD 3D TVs.
“Most or all of the 3D TVs on the show floor incorporate wireless or hard-wired networking solutions and feature integrated web content, such as Skype, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, VUDU, and others,” Scott Lowe of IGN noted. He and several other media outlets at CES also took a fair amount of notice on the presentation for Vizio, with their line of 3D TVs which have a price range that sees a 72-inch model go for $3,499 (€2,450) a 55-incher for $2,499 (€1,750), and a 47-inch version for $1,999 (€1,400).
Not everyone is convinced the need is there while costs will be hard to keep down (as DigitalTrends.com put it, “To get true 3D content, you’ll also need access to 3D broadcast programming and/or a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D movies, plus 3D glasses, which won’t come cheap”). However, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has already “set out a roadmap for highly advanced new broadcasting systems that mimic real-life visual experience”.
Study Group 6 of ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has released a new report outlining a roadmap for future 3D TV implementation. The new roadmap would see 3D TV technology rolled out in three successive generations.
The first generation, ‘plano-stereoscopic television’, ITU said, called for two views to be delivered to viewers’ TV sets, and wearing special glasses similar to those used to watch 3D cinema, viewers would be able to see depth in the picture, although “the view will remain the same when they move their heads, as opposed to real life where ones view changes when one move the head”.
The second generation, it added, would provide for multiple views, with head movement changing the view, for a viewing experience that more closely mimics real life, adding that the third generation would, however, feature systems that record the amplitude, frequency, and phase of light waves, to reproduce almost completely human beings’ natural viewing environment.
Most exciting of all though has to be the idea that somewhere on this planet there’s an Intel boffin who is getting the logistics right for thought-controlled TVs. You see, by analysing the brain’s electrical activity and blood flow when people ponder certain words and actions, Intel scientists have identified patterns that computers can be programmed to read and in turn this has opened the door to a number of intriguing applications.
In recent experiments, people suffering from paralysis have been equipped with brain-reading gadgets that let them change TV station just by thinking about it. It’s allowed them to turn on lights and write on a computer too. Who would have thought it, a day when you could be able to turn off Coronation Street just by thinking ‘this is crap’. What an idea.
But some experts are trying to be a killjoy here — including Dr. Jerry Shih, a neuroscientist at the Mayo Clinic in Florida — who believes faster and clearer readings of thoughts can only be obtained by placing the sensors inside the skull which may be a step too far for someone who just wants to watch Deal or No Deal without rowing over the remote.
So then, looking at all the evidence, is it conceivable that in a few years we could have sensors in the brain allowing you to switch from one 3D channel to another? Doesn’t sound too bad does it? Now we can only hope there’s something on worth watching.