News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

CES 2005 – Televisions


Someday I will get there myself. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opened this week in Las Vegas, Nevada, bringing to one place a plethora of technology, electronics, and content companies. One of the show’s highlights is new television technology.

Consumers have fallen in love with flat screen television over the past year, helping these sleek devices outsell the traditional and bulky CRT televisions. While the picture quality of newer technology has generally fallen somewhere below the quality of CRT televisions, these technologies are maturing so rapidly that this is becoming less of an issue. Plasma and LCD televisions are the top choices currently available, while OLED and SED televisions are on the horizon. CRT technology is also undergoing a makeover, resulting in larger screens with half the depth of traditional televisions.

Samsung showed off an 80-inch plasma television with a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The HPR8072 Widescreen Plasma Television has a brightness of 1500 candela per meter squared (cd/m2) and a contrast ratio of 5000 to 1. Yes, that is pretty darn good. If you put one in your home, any negative comparisons to CRT technology will likely be lost in the dropped jaws and excited exclamations of your guests. The HPR8072 will be released some time this summer at a price somewhere in the range of a new compact car. And if 80 inches is just too small for you, Samsung demonstrated a 102-inch monster (not currently planned for release).

I love LCD technology, almost as much as I love OLED technology (more on that later), so when Sharp announced their new 65-in high-definition widescreen AQUOS LCD I began cutting out heart shapes from pink and red construction paper. No, not really, but WOW! This 65-inch beauty boasts the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution necessary for displaying the highest quality 1080 progressive HDTV standard with the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that should be mandated by law for all video displays (please note that the background images behind all entries on The Frontier Channel have a 16:9 aspect ratio.)

There are many more upcoming releases of televisions from various companies making use of plasma and LCD, many of them unveiled this week at CES 2005. Some companies are offering cheaper models while others are throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. Many top-of-the line televisions to be released this year will include wireless connectivity to receive the content downloaded from or streamed over the Internet by your computer. Expect almost all new consumer electronics and computer devices to communicate with each other over wireless home networks by the end of 2006.

With the eventual release of OLED televisions the future holds even brighter promise. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens are brighter and use less power than LCD screens. Better yet, these screens can be made flatter and even flexible, because OLED does not require the backlight component that LCD technology requires. Instead, the chemicals inside the OLED screen shine with their own light. Developers have already demonstrated bendable OLED screens, promising a future of wall-sized video displays applied like wallpaper.

Samsung recently showed off a 21-inch OLED television. While the race is on to be the first to release an OLED television, this was only a prototype. Manufacturers plan to begin releasing OLED televisions for consumers in 2006 or 2007. You can already find much smaller OLED displays in some car radios, cameras, and personal media players. One of the drawbacks of this technology is the short lifespan of the chemicals used. However, lifespan is increasing and by the time the first OLED television is released to the public, developers expect lifespan to be on par with existing technology.

SED technology and technology based on carbon nanotubes and diamonds for televisions are also currently under development, but if I had to place a bet, I would put all my money on OLED technology (for its flexibility alone). Image a world where the animated characters on your cereal box run around (see Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report) and you can take your entire library of magazines, books, comics, and newspapers with you, stored inside one paper-thin reading device.

Okay, back to making valentines…

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