HDTV sets are stunning—until you pop in a movie and are reminded that DVDs are not recorded in high definition. At 480 lines of resolution, they don’t even begin to take advantage of a 720- or 1,080-line display. That will change later this year when Toshiba introduces the first high-def disc player for the U.S. market. Toshiba’s breakthrough box, an HD DVD player that at press time was still unnamed, will cost about $1,000 (toshiba.com). The highest-capacity HD DVDs hold 45 gigabytes—versus 8.5 gigabytes for DVDs—by squeezing data points closer together on the disc and reading them with a more precise blue laser. We’re talking at least three full-length high-def feature films on a single disc. Discs with a first-generation DVD on one side and an HD DVD on the other will also be available, so even if you’re not ready to shell out a grand now, you’ll have a full HD DVD arsenal when you do take the high-def leap. Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video have pledged allegiance to the HD DVD standard, promising 89 titles when the player launches. MGM, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Walt Disney Pictures and Television are working on titles for the Blu-ray standard, the competing HD-disc format (compatible devices are due out next year), which can store up to 50 gigabytes. Although Toshiba’s HD DVD unit is play-only, you can expect an HD recorder sometime next year.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.