Published in December 2004 IT/AV Report

Display Innovations
By Neal Weinstock

These are key to our business success going forward.

Monitor calibration is only accurate on CRTs.

      Probably more of our current and future business depends on display technologies than on any other category of equipment we install. Why? As prices go lower and sizes get larger for today’s popular technologies (plasma, LCD, LED, DLP, LCoS, etc.), flat-screen availabilities are driving new sales into current applications, and, far more important, driving many new applications that will make our fortunes. But, from the point of view of the traditional systems-integration/reseller business model, flat-screen cost reductions are a huge challenge; many readers make less money every few months when screens sell for thousands of dollars less per unit every few months. You can either look at the trend as an opportunity to explore new display-systems business models, or as another source of fat profits going Squeezeville.
     There is, alas, another way to lose money on big flat displays: choosing the wrong technology for the job. As in most hot new product areas, the many competing display technologies being rushed to market offer a confusing set of different capabilities, limitations and thus opportunities.

CRTs: Old But…
     Clearly, the old-fashioned CRT (cathode ray tube) is being replaced in many applications. Because of this, however, there are now stunning deals available on CRTs, with image quality and dependability also now more rock solid in the category than ever before. In fact, CRTs offer better quality per square inch of picture than any other technology at present, as well as outrageously better quality per dollar.
     Still, CRTs have that clunky and viewing-size-limited form factor. Customers are likely to demand any display but CRT, but what exactly are they demanding? Do they—or their vendors and integrators—understand the tradeoffs per technology between color balance, brightness, contrast ratios, lifespan for each of the mentioned factors, overall durability and size…or do they just understand tradeoffs in cost vs. screen size? And how about future cost and quality tradeoffs: Which technologies are growing cheaper and better the fastest? Which new technologies that customers haven’t started asking for yet are likely to change everything?
     In fact, the best estimates by a number of researchers are that forthcoming technologies including OLEP, OLED and GLV will find huge markets for their really great image qualities. But, at the same time, existing technologies surely will continue to dominate certain markets. Huge fixed investments are now being made in LCD manufacturing by Samsung, NEC, Sony, LG, Philips, Matsushita, Fujitsu and others for screens with diagonal glass sizes of 60 inches and larger; these factories will be able to turn out millions of screens at very low incremental cost per screen for years to come.

Relatively Small Output Today
     Compare that to actual output today, which market researcher iSuppli estimates at only a few thousand large-panel screens in 2003, vs. about 500,000 large-panel plasma screens. Meanwhile, electronics and software are rapidly improving their capacity to control color balance on those screens. And plasma in the future? A real question mark. But, for now and certainly at least through 2005, it’s the flat-screen technology with the best color and cost.
     iSupply expects 6.2 million large-panel plasmas to be built in 2006. No wonder many observers expect prices to drop radically, but rapid take-up of consumer HDTV could keep pricing steadier.
     The following stories focus on what we all need to know about each technology. And the market for them all is clearly enormous: According to iSuppli, flat panels were a $40 billion market in 2003 and should grow to $70 billion in 2007. About $10 billion of that, in 2007, will be in large TVs and commercial displays, up from about $7 billion in 2003. Clearly, there’s money to be made here. Let’s figure out how.


Which Display is Right for the Job?
By Joseph Bocchiaro III,PhD, CTS-D, and Neal Weinstock

CRT, LCD, Plasma, PDP, LCoS, DLP, LED and more all vie for placement.

     Display technologies are now available in dizzying variety, some familiar, some new, some just on the horizon. Accompanying articles in this issue discuss the wave of future technologies. Meanwhile, currently used technologies range from the familiar to the not-so-familiar, perhaps. They include CRT (cathode ray tube), LCD (liquid crystal display), PDP (plasma display panel), LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), DLP (digital light processor) and LED (light emitting diode). Any of these might be built for displaying standard-definition analog or digital TV, one of the several HDTV resolutions, RGB computer display in one or more resolution choices or, of course, other TV standards (PAL, SECAM and the digital, but not hi-def, DVB being most common).
     This is not even to mention the many forthcoming technologies. Even with today’s display products, the complications don’t end yet. Specialized versions of LCoS, such as JVC’s D-ILA, and LCDs make claims of higher performance. (In the case of LCDs, Sony has a new system using LEDs, instead of with the usual fluorescent light, to back-light the LCD image. Sony claims—and it seems very sensible—that this results in far more stable color, better lifespan, greater brightness and goodbye to those fluttery intensity changes that affect fluorescents.) Displays, which can be connected with an expanding variety of interfaces such as Firewire, HDMI, DVI, RGBHV, VGA, CV, Y/C, IP, etc., come in widescreen, flat screen and touchscreen. Many commercial system designers will choose to work with high-end consumer displays, which may include integrated sound systems offering many more choices. The set of possibilities is mind-numbing, and it’s growing.
     What do you use where? By now, audiovisual and IT professionals have grown accustomed to many of the distinctions and features of these options, but are we really implementing them in their optimal settings?

 
Intel's implementation of an LCoS chip, a project now canceled.   Sony recently demonstrated its Image Pro plasma monitors in a pseudo game-show setting.

Size Matters
     Let’s start at the large end of the display continuum, because “bigger” is really most of what the display revolution is about to the average viewer. We’re talking LEDs here for most outdoor uses, plus a few technologies competing in digital cinema display applications. To start with the biggest of the big, however, implies only LEDs just now. The tiny red displays that watches and clock radios featured 20 years ago have grown up. Way up.
     LEDs offer the brightest light output of any display, they’re more efficient in power usage than all other established display technologies, and they are getting brighter and more power efficient. (Much of the credit for recent brightness improvements in LEDs is due to advances in blue diode production; the other primary colors have been capable of brighter output for years.) As LEDs come to be used for consumer lighting everywhere an incandescent bulb might go, they surely will continue to ride a steep cost curve downward.
     LED displays are arrays of relatively large components, with each pixel being one LED and each LED as large as an inch in diameter…and no smaller than about a tenth of an inch. (There’s nothing inherently quite so large about LED technology, but LEDs are not as well suited for smaller sizes as the newer technologies of OLEDs and OLEPs, so LED advances clearly are moving in directions other than miniaturization.)
     Unique among display options, LED arrays can be built easily into different screen sizes and even customized shapes. LEDs also feature excellent color balance and stability; because they are so bright, they also give a good sense of blackness, which is key to producing full imaging dynamics. Their transient response, too, is better than all other current flat displays, so they do very well at depicting motion. The upshot: LEDs are not well suited for close viewing, but they are excellent for outdoors and for very large halls; they’re uniquely capable of being customized into different shapes and of displaying bright images in daylight; and they’re coming down in price rapidly.

Not Quite As Big…
     Competing with LEDs for some applications are the projection technologies: DLP, polysilicon LCD and LCoS. They’re also known as “microdis- plays” because they use semiconductors to create a projected image; earlier video projectors use CRTs or similar analog “light valves.” Although all of these touch on the market for LEDs, all are mostly focused on other apps, such as digital cinema and home theater. Where they overlap is in commercial displays in large convention halls and meeting facilities, and in some unusual advertising situations such as the eerie-looking signage we’ve seen projected occasionally onto the sides of buildings.
     DLP was developed by and is sold only by Texas Instruments (TI) and then resold in projectors made by several companies. It uses a type of optical semiconductor called a digital micromirror, sometimes referred to as a DMD or digital micromirror device, that contains millions of tiny mirrors. Electronic circuits swivel each mirror so it either does or does not reflect light. The mirrors switch on and off thousands of times per second, directing light to the screen or away, creating a monochrome image with high enough precision for three or more times the accuracy needed for HDTV or even “2K” digital cinema resolution. That is, it resolves at about 6000 lines, at least; TI claims up to 10,000 lines. TI uses a color wheel, spinning in front of the chip in precise time alignment, to tint pixels that should appear as green, red or blue.
     First brought out for cinema and industrial use, DLP is used today in home TVs, with a 50-inch HDTV set costing about $3500. The technology probably is inherently less expensive than plasma or any other current large flat-screen system, although pricing is roughly equal now. It is also capable of higher resolution when, instead of that color wheel, three DLP chips are used for constant projection of each primary. In fact, even a four-chip system seems likely eventually, with one just dedicated to light-to-dark dynamics (“luminance,” in the NTSC world). In this manner, DLP seems likely to arrive at true 4K or 8K film equivalence. It would do so at low cost, if it also becomes widely used in consumer TVs.
     There are some problems with DLP, however. The color flywheel can cause a shimmering “rainbow effect” on certain kinds of fast-moving images. DLP also is solely a TI product, meaning that its lone supplier may have difficulty ramping up huge volumes as manufacturers are loathe to allow one core component supplier to own them.

Likeliest Competitor
     LCoS has long been presumed to be the likeliest competitor to DLP, but LCoS suppliers keep stumbling. The biggest stumble: Intel announced at last January’s CES that it would enter the market, building $2000 big-screen HDTV sets around an LCoS chip, in a model similar to its PC business; Intel canceled the project in October. Still, there are several other LCoS chip suppliers.
     The technology features a liquid crystal sandwiched between a glass plate and a silicon substrate containing the circuits that form the image. Light comes from some other source—a plain old projector lamp—and bounces off of the centimeters-large image on the chip. As with DLP, three chips or more, one for each primary color and perhaps one for brightness values, could create a high-resolution image. But LCoS efforts have been aimed mostly at home TVs; manufacturers generally see the technology as a low-priced substitute for flat panels, much like any other rear-projection set.
     One LCoS product most definitely not only aimed at the home has been the Hughes and JVC co-venture called D-ILA (digital-image light amplification). Most people who have seen large theater projection probably have watched a D-ILA. In the early race for digital cinema projection, D-ILA and DLP have been the leaders by far.
     The problems for LCoS are those of LCDs in general (we’ll talk about that next), plus those caused by the extremely tight manufacturing tolerances that can be seen easily when magnifying an image thousands of times from a small display. Also, the fact that light reflects off the picture, instead of shining through it, means that power efficiencies can never be as high as with other projection techniques.
     Polysilicon LCD (PLCD) is similar to LCoS, but does allow light to shine through the image for direct, rather than reflected, projection. Instead of glass on one side and silicon on the other, PLCDs use special high-temperature quartz glass on both sides that is imprinted with the chip’s circuitry, so light actually shines through it. If that sounds even more complicated than LCoS, it may explain why not too many of these displays are around. Yet. In fact, PLCD may be much of the future for large flat-panel LCDs, too, thus pushing down costs and pushing up reliability.
     Finally, front-projected active-matrix LCD is the technology most often seen in company meetings, education and other commercial venues. It has come down in price radically, so $1000 or so can buy a good portable device. But these projectors essentially are small LCD computer monitors with projector lights shone through them. They display most of the good and bad characteristics of a small computer display, but with faults magnified to full-screen size.
     Image line counts are usually in the 300 to 400 range, not even matching analog NTSC video. Response times are slow, so motion looks smeary. Brightness dynamic range is narrow. Often the devices don’t even accept video input, or else may put video through a conversion process that makes it look even worse than the pixel count may otherwise indicate. Images don’t tend to be very bright, either, because the light must shine through a fairly opaque image on the LCD. For showing a PowerPoint presentation in a meeting, these devices are just fine; for showing video meant to entertain or convince viewers emotionally, they leave much to be desired.
     But they do share the benefits of LCDs in general these days: relatively low price, long lifespan, image stability and excellent contrast. And they share the main flaw of all LCDs: low color reliability and not very bright color output. Color in LCD displays can’t be well calibrated, and can’t be expected to hold to a calibration once set. But many of these issues are being addressed in the newest generation of LCDs, especially in flat panels. And the good news for LCD projectors is that, with LCD flat panels not yet booming in the home TV market quite as much as predicted, lots of displays are available for incorporation in projectors and other commercial products.


Plasma display layers.

Flat Expectations
     Bigger is always better, is the usual American mantra. In video displays, it seems, bigger and flatter are better—at least according to the market.
     The vast marketplace for displays in the 40- to 80-inch diagonal range is being filled by a bevy of LCD and plasma “direct-view” devices. These are displacing some of the market for LCD front projection, and especially for the CRT-based rear-projection rooms popular only a few years ago. This is an area of tremendous competition, with crossover between corporate, educational and residential markets. Subtle yet important differences between products can make all the difference to a product’s success. Incremental technological developments are pushing this segment into a high-quality imagery not imagined only a few years ago.
     Each display technology in this arena has cost/benefits suitable for different applications that may not be immediately obvious.
     Take, for example, a 63-inch LCD versus a 63-inch plasma panel: Plasma is less expensive, but still darn pricey at up to $14,000 versus less than $3000 for many projectors and ceiling screens. The even higher price—and, especially, the higher cost structure—of LCD panels has limited their market appeal even as supply has increased…because that high cost structure hasn’t allowed LCD prices to come down much. Instead, now manufacturers are pushing their LCD panel factories into different applications such as PC monitors and cell phones.
     Still, besides the obvious differences in the cost and physical dimensions of any particular LCD or plasma screen, there are numerous other quality differences between the different technologies. Some of these are familiar to nearly everyone, particularly brightness and contrast. Although it is well understood how increasing or decreasing the levels of these “looks,” it is not commonly understood how important issues such as “black background” can change the viewing experience. The ability of a display to reproduce black may be more important than the ability to produce pure white.
     In the same manner, the ability of a screen to consistently reproduce saturated colors will be evident to a viewer of a film in a dark room. Motion artifacts, the irregularities in moving objects on a display, are particularly distracting to a movie viewer, but may not bother the work of a static-image graphic artist. Phosphor persistence, LCD switching times and other issues affect the perception of resolution, of motion and of color. In all of these areas, plasmas have been superior to LCDs. The better plasmas can be calibrated for precise color (though not as well as CRTs, which remain best at displaying exactly the image the filmmaker saw), while LCDs are hopeless in this regard.
     Meanwhile, LCDs have been superior to plasmas in contrast and long-term reliability. And their color and black performance are likely to improve now that Sony and others are using LED panels in back of the LCD to push light through the image, rather than the fluorescents commonly used today. But this probably will also increase the price differential between LCD and plasma, too.
     There are many other important technology class distinctions between display types. Energy efficiency and the related issue of heat output are particularly important in settings with numerous displays and in locations where displays are mounted in enclosures. The noise level of devices such as projectors and plasma displays must be considered whenever the display is in close proximity to the audience, or in a quiet setting such as a studio or hospital operating room. The weight of different displays varies greatly, too.
     Plasmas are at a general disadvantage in all these issues compared with LCDs, though some particular plasmas are lighter, more power efficient and quieter than several LCD models (and, again, LCDs backed by LEDs are going to be hotter than fluorescent-backed models, though probably less noisy). Incidental but important issues such as shipping fragility, physical durability, expected lifetime, serviceability and others should be considered whenever display types are compared.

Wide, Narrow, Weird
     Finally, virtually all big flat screens deliver a 16:9 aspect ratio. With plasmas, there has long been a case for viewing 4:3 aspect material horizontally stretched so displays will not “burn in” gray or black areas on the sides of the picture. This is unnecessary with any of the other technologies, but many people have become so used to stretched images they think they’re called for with all big displays.
     It is even common to find viewers who say they prefer stretched images. Does this drive image creators and perfectionists batty? You bet! What are most system installers and administrators doing about it? As far as we can see from signage viewed in hundreds of locations, we’re mostly displaying 4:3-originated material at 16:9, whatever the display technology. This sure can be a weird business….

Organic Light Emitting Polymer Displays
By Joseph Bocchiaro III, PhD, CTS-D

The promise of portability.

  A flexible OLEP.

     Anyone who has lugged any type of notebook computer or tablet PC wishes that it was still lighter, still thinner, still brighter. Although LCD technology has been developed to an astounding level, a limiting factor of these devices is that they must be backlit, requiring significant power and thickness to operate.
     On the technology horizon shines the OLEP, or organic light emitting polymer display. Also known as PLED (polymer light emitting diode) or polymer OLED, these devices promise to overcome some of the limitations of the LED, while offering physical flexibility and affordability. A close cousin of OLED (see the article below "Image Tech: The Next Generation"), OLEP holds the potential for simpler manufacturing and even higher brightness than the devices of today.

How It Works
     OLEPs operate under the principle of organic electroluminescence, an electro-chemical reaction similar to a firefly’s ability to glow. Unlike LEDs and many other silicon-based devices, OLEPs are not crystalline, but rather have an organic, amorphous structure. The electroluminescent material is sandwiched between two electrodes, one of which is transparent and allows the light to pass through to the viewer. Engineers create color by “doping” the organic structure with molecules of prescribed fluorescence, usually in the familiar red, green and blue combination to create a full spectrum of color. Alternatively, a white emission compound may be used in conjunction with color filters.
     One of the promising features of this technology is the way it can be manufactured using simpler processes than those of traditional integrated circuits. One manufacturing technique is to spin the uncured polymer into a thin film, then allow it to dry by itself or cure it with ultraviolet light. Another process uses inkjet printing technology to place pixels in patterns of different fluorescent colors. (Not surprisingly, Hewlett-Packard thinks it can leverage this technology into becoming a power in the display business.) This may be accurate to a pattern precision of 5 to 10 microns.
     Yet another is to apply the polymer with the sort of roll-to-roll process used in publishing. The fact that there are so many options allows engineers to apply the manufacturing technique most suitable to the application for the display or light source.

Promising Features
     According to Frost & Sullivan’s report, Light Emitting Polymers—Global Developments, OLEPs have many promising features. One is the strength of the polymers themselves, composed of repeating molecular structures strongly bound together. Unlike the fragile crystals and glass or plastic capsules in an LCD, the self-supporting OLEP can be applied to a variety of materials, rendering them ultra-thin and flexible. Unlike crystalline structures, amorphous materials such as OLEPs are less sensitive to impurities during fabrication, allowing higher yields. Because of their controlled flexibility and transparency, they have many applications not possible for LCDs.
     Once made into a display product, OLEPs offer a wide viewing angle and better contrast ratio than LCDs. Because of their quick response, they are well-suited for video displays, which require rapid refresh rates. Inherent image clarity, and increased readability and resolution also make them suitable for static or dynamic images. Their wide operating temperature range allows them to be used in difficult environments. Finally, their low power consumption makes OLEPs suitable for a wide range of portable devices.

Cells to Displays to Digital Wallpaper
     Applications for OLEPs, as for most new display technologies, start small and build up to larger screen sizes. The initial commercial use of OLEPs is in cell phone “sub-displays,” visible on the outside of flip phones. This application takes advantage of the OLEP’s ability to be incorporated into a very thin, non-backlit cover, with the required low power consumption of the cell phone. A related app is in viewfinders for digital cameras and camera-phones. Next to come are larger displays, for PDAs and notebook computers.
     On the horizon are specialized devices such as heads-up displays for windshields and helmets. According to “Better Displays with Organic Films” by Webster E. Howard, Scientific American, February 2004, OLEPs are ideal in this application because they do not have to reflect imagery onto the surface like an LCD: They can be made semi-transparent and can be viewed directly on the glass surface. Virtual reality displays, flexible newspaper-like portable displays that can be rolled up and placed in the pocket, and many other personal electronic device applications have been proposed.
     Although much attention has been focused on OLEPs as display devices, there is also potential to use them as solid-state lighting components. LEDs have found wide use as illumination devices, particularly in the automotive industry and, similarly, OLEPs can outperform conventional light sources in terms of power-to-light-output efficiency. Described features, such as manufacturability and high operating temperature range, make OLEPs attractive for these applications. Bring this capability back to the display world and it’s reasonable to expect attempts to use OLEPs to compete with LEDs for large-screen outdoor displays.
     Probably more than with many new technologies, applications will be devised that we can’t imagine yet, enabled by OLEP’s unique properties. Digital signage in public spaces, possibly incorporated into architectural elements such as wallpaper, is one possibility. “Digital ink,” a concept applicable to a wide range of products, includes digital “tagging” for instantaneous price updating in the retail environment, and electronic newspapers. We can be certain that, wherever low cost, simplified installation and portability are required, OLEPs will find a place in the near future.

Joseph Bocchiaro III, Ph.D., CTS-D, is a Principal Consultant with Electro-Media Design, Ltd., and manages the EMD Western New York office. He is the Chair of the ICIA ICAT (Council of Independent Consultants in Audiovisual Technology) and an Adjunct Faculty Member of ICIA (International Communications Industries Association), a member of AECT (Association for Educational Communications and Technology), and a member of IACC (International Association of Conference Centers). In addition, Bocchiaro is a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical Council and pens the “Consultant’s Corner.”


Image Tech: The Next Generation

By Neal Weinstock

Movie studios light our way.

 
A Silicon Light Machines engineer points out detail in a projected GLV image.   Sony's implementation of Cypress's GLV chip.

     Hollywood finally may be getting serious about digital theatrical display, a development that may change just about everything for all the rest of our display businesses.
     For more than a decade, the conundrum of digital cinema projection has been that theaters must make the investment in new technology (an estimated $100,000 per screen now), but that they would generate no additional revenue or cost savings by doing so. Meanwhile the Hollywood studios would reap huge cost savings from digital distribution, because it now costs more than $1000 per print to release a film (plus shipping), and most films now “open wide” to 1000 or more theaters. That’s a million dollars per movie, and Hollywood makes some 500 movies a year. But the studios have not subsidized theatrical investments, partly out of inertia (“let’s wait for their film projectors to break down, then the theaters will buy in anyway”) and partly out of fear that audiences will miss the look of film. So they don’t make the investment, either.
     This last Election Day, however, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Co. had begun talks to form a joint venture to install digital cinema systems in theaters. The venture would, essentially, sell off the future value of money saved by not making film prints, and invest that money in digital projectors. After many years of dithering, digital cinema finally seems to be moving forward. As part of this move, the three studios are insisting that all the projectors they fund be “4K,” or 4000 pixels per frame. No current digital cinema projector offers such high resolution. Perhaps not coincidentally, however, Sony has one under development.

The Color Blue
     Let’s talk about the color blue. Sony has long been leading the push for a new Blu Ray rewriteable HD DVD standard, while just about everybody else has backed a less radical and far less costly red laser system. Sony has spoken of extending the market for Blu Ray (the copyrighted name for the technology, but not for Sony’s products) from professional disk camcord-ers and disk jukebox servers we might use in installed video systems, all the way to home VCR replacements. But blue lasers are very expensive, compared to red and green lasers. Sony’s rivals, such as Panasonic and Toshiba, are saying, “Let’s use red lasers for all that home video and jukebox stuff, and use solid-state media such as Panasonic’s SD memory chips for camcorders.”
     But Sony has other reasons to push blue lasers into mass markets. Only by spreading development across wide consumer markets will the cost of blue lasers come down to roughly the level of green and red lasers. Not too many other companies care whether this ever happens. But Sony owns the exclusive rights to producing video displays based on Cypress Semiconductor’s Grated Light Valve (GLV) technology. (It is also used in the printing industry by other companies.) GLV requires three lasers—one for each primary color—to work. Assuming efficient production of blue lasers alongside reds and greens, GLV projectors can be churned out at a reasonable price. And GLV projectors are expected to produce extremely bright images at 4K resolution.

What’s a Grated Light Valve?
     GLV is a technology developed more than a decade ago by Silicon Light Machines, which was bought by Cypress in 2000. Comprised of a series of ribbons on the surface of a silicon chip, the GLV device is a unique MEMS (or “micro-electro-mechanical system”) that acts as a dynamic, tunable grating to precisely vary the amount of laser light that is diffracted or reflected. GLVs offer a relatively simple and cost-effective solution for high-definition display products. As with Texas Instruments’ DLP technology (see “Which Display is Right for the Job?” in this issue), the ribbons on a GLV act as if they were thousands of tiny mirrors to bend the light from a given source into images. But DLP uses a white light source. GLV uses lasers. There may be more power, efficiency and color fidelity in the GLV approach.
      GLV uses a micro ribbon array; that is, one-dimensional micro mirrors. This differs from DLP, which uses a two-dimensional (vertical and horizontal) structure. Thus, GLV is an inherently simpler device. Also, by using RGB lasers for the light sources, it is possible to obtain more than twice the color reproduction area of a CRT. Even now, CRTs offer by far the highest color fidelity of all electronic displays. But they aren’t perfect, as anybody who compares a CRT side-by-side with a well-projected and good-quality film print will attest, and can be improved upon.
     According to Suehiro Nakamura, Sony’s deputy president, “We believe the GLV technology has the potential to become one of the key components for future large-scale projection displays that offer unprecedented image quality.”
     DLP may be ahead in this race, but GLV not only offers Sony a strongly competitive point of entry (and Sony does own a movie studio that can directly benefit from the technology), it may offer greater benefits for other devices down the road. For example, many visionaries are forecasting that future generations of our cell phones and digital cameras will include image projectors. This would beat the problem of trying to view images on tiny screens.
     Although other image projection technologies could make use of LEDs as light sources, laser diodes can be even more efficient in power usage, and probably cheaper to build, than LEDs. Many consumers may thus wind up using GLV for home and portable projection, which is probably a kind of mass market that is unavailable to DLP or to the other projection technologies.

OK, GLV vs. DLP;but OLED, too?
     My colleague Joe Bocchiaro points out, “Aside from the need for group experiences, the vast frontier in the IT/AV world is the desire for portability. Applications for small displays abound now, from wristwatches to handheld games to cell phones to PDAs to portable web appliances! The quality of these displays is particularly notable because their contrast, brightness and resolution have improved so much as to make the devices they are in truly useful. Some of the newest display technology appears in these devices first. This is most notable in the OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays available on some cell phones. This technology, in its infancy, holds promise for lower power consumption, low heat emission, low weight, low cost and even flexible (you can bend it!) devices in the future.”
     Oddly enough, while film-studio-owner Sony works to replace film with GLV, film technology provider East- man Kodak is the main patent holder behind OLEDs. What’s the difference between an OLED and an LED? Essentially, using the weird witchcraft of organic chemistry, you can grow an OLED. Both (inorganic) LEDs and OLEDs eventually are likely to offer the precise color reproduction and bright display characteristics that users will demand in their video imaging—and that will be superior to anything attainable with plasma and LCD monitors.
     But LED flat screens are power-hungry and expensive. OLED technology promises less expensive production, thinner (and thus lighter) and eventually even flexible screens, along with all the benefits of LEDs (see “Which Display Is Right For The Job?”). Eventually, we’ll probably all use OLEDs instead of all the rest of the alphabet soup of flat-screen displays. LCD, inorganic LED and plasma will go away.
     But they’re not going anywhere soon! That’s because nobody can make an OLED for any reasonable cost that is bigger than a couple of inches across. So OLEDs have come to cell-phone displays. They’re great for those phones with two displays, one on each side of a flip cover, where the imaging devices have to be extremely thin. They allow camera phones to go megapixel in quality and to actually display such clear images that it is possible to imagine such a combined phone/camera replacing standalone cameras for most consumers. But an OLED display even large enough for a laptop computer probably is still a decade away, according to Kodak researchers.
     But then, you don’t need a display quite that big if you’re going to project light through it and show movies on a reflective screen on the other side of a room. Several OLED licensees are trying to use the technology for just that application, making OLED into a true competitor of GLV and DLP.
     The GLV vs. DLP vs. OLED drama now looks likely to begin to play out in 2005, as the film studios’ new consortium either comes to life or falls apart (as such efforts have in the past), and may make its plans for recommended 4K projection systems.
      May the battle go to the brightest!

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