Seattle The future is clear. You get up in the morning, look in the mirror and, while brushing your teeth, check your e-mail on that same looking glass, which doubles as an interactive touch display. During the day, your windows turn into television screens and interactive video phone displays when activated remotely. Indeed, if there is a flat surface anywhere in your environment that can be used to throw pixels at, it will likely become a useful display of some kind.
That was the scenario painted by Johan van de Ven, senior vice president at Philips Semiconductors, in a keynote at the Society for Information Display conference here last week. He urged the display industry to think about providing "experiences," not just displays:. "It's not the technology, but the experience provided by the technology that is important."
Displays, he said, should be "environmentally robust [and] able to be used in all situations." The ultimate display would be one in which digital intelligence is embedded, van de Ven added.
Grabbing the spotlight at SID were ever-larger screens in a variety of technologies, including a 34-inch inorganic electroluminescent display, reported to be the largest of its kind, and prototype LCDs that reached 45 inches on the diagonal. A competing technology, liquid crystal on chip, went even bigger, as LCOS pioneer Brillian Corp. unveiled its first TV product: a 65-inch rear-projection high-definition monitor.
"This is an extraordinary time in the evolution of HDTV products," said Vincent F. Sollitto, CEO of Brillian (Tempe, Ariz.), who touted the LCOS monitor's "near-3-D picture quality" and "artifact-free performance." Philips also exhibited 62-inch and 55-inch LCOS HDTVs.
Whereas van de Ven of Philips spoke of transparent technologies and enhanced user experiences of some 10 to 15 years out, Microsoft Research's senior vice president, Richard Rashid, homed in on more near-term developments in his SID keynote. "We are empowering the individual with graphics technologies that are driving broad innovation in computing," he said of the software giant's role.
To Rashid, as to van de Ven, the "experience," not the technology, is what it's all about. At the same time, for individuals to gain the most from visual experiences, they need the best possible displays with resolutions that can be scaled on the fly. The possibilities of what can be visualized given the huge amount of data that's now readily available is mind-boggling. "Today, we can buy a terabyte of storage for under $1,000, and this will become cheaper by the year," said Rashid. "It wasn't that long ago that a terabyte was all there was on the Internet."
Rashid detailed some of the software enhancements being built into the next Windows operating system, Longhorn, to provide an "adaptive" reading experience. Because content doesn't scale with each display's resolution, Web pages are still being designed to the lowest common denominator, usually 800 x 600 pixels. In Longhorn, Rashid said, a click-and-drag function enables users to dynamically adjust the content on their screen, expanding a story from a one-column format to three columns, say, for better readability and presentation.
Big, bigger, biggest
On the show floor, iFire Technology demonstrated a high-definition 34-inch prototype display, billed as the largest flat panel ever produced using inorganic EL technology. In conjunction with joint development partner Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., iFire plans to begin pilot production of 34-inch high-definition television display modules in 2005. The Toronto company expects its displays to have a significant manufacturing cost advantage over other flat-panel technologies, including LCD and plasma.
LCDs, meanwhile, are starting to play in the large-resolution space as well. Samsung, LG Philips, Sharp and Toshiba all exhibited or talked about larger-than-45-inch prototypes with at least 1,024 x 1,280-pixel resolution.
The Brillian LCOS monitor contains three 1,280 x 720-pixel microdisplays that offer contrast ratios of up to 2,000:1. The monitor measures 20 inches in depth. OEM-branded versions of Brillian's 720p HDTV will be available in the second half, the company said.
Clairvoyante (Sebastopol, Calif.) showcased LCD panels in screen sizes from 2 to 10.4 inches featuring the company's PenTile Matrix technology, which increases the resolution and brightness of LCDs by means of algorithms that increase the number of row drivers while keeping the number of column drivers constant. The company licenses its technology to LCD panel manufacturers.
Meanwhile, National Semiconductor Corp. announced a point-to-point differential-signaling digital interface architecture and chip set for LCD TVs. The architecture aims to enable cinema-quality display performance and smaller bezels, while supporting LCD TVs up to 90 inches on the diagonal.
Philips demonstrated its LifePix in action. This series of algorithms is said to enhance the color performance of mobile LCDs and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. Philips also showed its first 13-inch OLED application, a wide-screen prototype television based on polymer OLED technology.