Ed from OC

Display Technology

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The 20th century has seen vast improvements in display technology, going from black and white to color, from analog technology (film) to digital, from optics designed by hand to those designed by computer, from low resolution to high definition.

Yet movie theaters still rely on the basic idea from the turn of the last century: move a strip of film, one frame at a time, in front of a white-hot bulb. In over 100 years, a few new ideas have pushed forward, but never really taken off.

The new push is to digital cinema. If you've had the pleasure of seeing a movie in one of these theaters, you've most likely encountered Texas Instrument's Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology, which is now available in home TV sets.

But there are several problems with this technology, the most striking of which is the image pixelation. If you sit in the front half of a movie theater, a person with good vision can see the pixels that make up the image, creating a "screendoor" effect, as it looks as if one is looking at something through a screen door.

Is there a way to get the benefits of digital cinema without pixelation?

Yes.

This is a radical departure from any other display technology, using not only very creative technical components, but using them in a creative way that takes advantage of their particular traits. The Grating Light Valve (GLV) is a MEMS device that uses electrostatic force to create a deformable diffraction grating. In each display system, three GLVs are used, one for each color - red, green, and blue. Data is encoded into each GLV pixel, and the three columns of red, green, and blue information are overlapped and reflected off a horizontal scanning mirror to the screen.

The other key component: lasers! Red, green, and blue laser light is used to paint the image on the screen. There are fascinating technical reasons for it, but the interesting technical point is that only a modulator like the GLV can use laser light. The DLP MEMS chips would not remove speckle from the laser light, which would leave the image so degraded that nobody would want to watch the screen.

I'm particularly glad to see this technology starting to appear, as I worked on a prototype system a few years ago. I'm glad to see the guys at Sony providing the engineering polish to turn a lab experiment into a product.

And someday wouldn't it be great to have this in your living room?

For more info on the GLV technlogy, see Silicon Light Machines.

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The 20th century has seen vast improvements in display technology ...

Nice post, Ed. Thanks for the information.

On something different but related, I have been peripherally following the flexible display technology as it develops. The idea of thin, rollable display devices is such a fantastic idea, reducing the size of portable equipment, such as laptops, or increasing the capability of already small devices, such as cell phones. The technology has exploded in the past two years, and Philips has released the "Readius," a rollable display portable e-reader. Here is a pointer to some information on the technology.

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