Even as some of the world moves into a future of unimaginably complex technology, many communities still lack the basic electrical infrastructure needed to power even simply electric devices like light bulbs. Unwilling to wait for the wiring to catch up to the demand, Danish researcher Frederik Krebs has created an LED lamp embedded within a flexible, printable solar panel that could replace the kerosene lamps still used around the developing world.
By Sean Captain
Posted 10.23.2007 at 12:26 pm 8 Comments
Technology so amazing, they cant even explain it
Oh you poor saps with five-inch thick LCD TVs. Hitachi put them to shame today with its new 1.5-inch Ultra Thin line of panels.
The secret to that slim figure is in the backlight behind that panel. And that secret, for now, is remaining a secret. On a conference call from Japan today, Hitachi representatives would say only that it uses an external electrode fluorescent light, as opposed to the fluorescent tubes behind a regular LCD. What exactly this new term means was left to the imagination. But Hitachi did say that the TV requires a special LCD panel with a conductive material fused into glass. So the best guess for now is that the panel creates an electrical field around a container of gas to make it glow—as opposed to having electrodes inside a glass tube.
In addition to making the TVs thinner, Hitachi says that the new backlight technology extends the lifetime of the sets and makes them more energy efficient. It also improves color on the screen, expanding it to beyond what the HDTV standards require and especially improving reds, said a Hitachi spokesperson
The Ultra Thin TVs will be available in 2008 in screen sizes of 32, 37, and 42 inches. They are not the same as the super-duper ultra thin TVs that Hitachi showed off at CEATEC in Japan earlier this month. Those waifs measure only 0.75 inches and are scheduled to appear in 2009. Hitachi is saying even less about how those sets work, but some industry experts suspect that Hitachi uses light-emitting diodes for the backlight.
Hitachi didnt specify exactly how much any of the Ultra Thin sets will cost. But Kevin Sullivan, the senior vice president of sales, said It will definitely be a high-priced product targeted at highly affluent customers who seek luxury, prestige and style. The 32-inch panel will be available in 2008, followed by the 37- and 42-inch models around mid year. All will debut under Hitachis Director Series line of premium products sold in specialty A/V shops and by high-priced custom installers, but Hitachi plans to offer the technology in more mainstream products later on.—Sean Captain
By Sean Captain
Posted 10.05.2007 at 11:50 am 3 Comments
Screen resolution is so early-2007. At the CEATEC show in Japan this year, the big TV news is contrast—the difference in brightness between the lightest and darkest parts of the screen. The higher that difference, the easier details are to see and the more images pop off the screen. Nearly every TV maker is trying to push contrast higher, and they are doing it in many different ways.
By Sean CaptainPosted 10.02.2007 at 4:21 pm0 Comments
Companies compete for the thinnest screens
At the CEATEC show near Tokyo—as at other tech shows lately—flat panel TVs are the stars. And like so many of the Hollywood stars, the sets here are unnervingly skinny.
Several companies are pushing the thinness of their LCD panels. But a few are going to the extreme. LCD giant Sharp was showing off a mysterious prototype—first displayed in August—that measures fifty-two inches diagonally but just 0.79 inches thick. (That’s slimmer than many pocket cameras.) How did Sharp do it? They won’t say. But they do admit the big secret is in the backlight that illuminates the LCD panel from behind.
Hitachi had a similar story. It debuted its own anorexic LCDs – these measuring 32 inches diagonally and a waifish .75 inches thick. Hitachi also declined to name the secret sauce. But unlike Sharp, it did say when the sets will be for sale: 2009 in both Japan and the US.
Despite Sharp’s and Hitachi’s reticence, the technology behind the sets is no mystery, according to analyst Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group. He’s pretty sure the sets use ultra-small "nano" or "pico" light-emitting diodes for the backlight. LEDs have appeared in high-end sets from Sony, Samsung, and LG, that aren’t any skinnier than sets with fluorescent backlights. But new LEDs are extremely thin.
Sony, on the other hand, was happy to talk about how its wafer-thin sets work. After a lot of talk and prototype demonstrations, it finally introduced the XEL-1, the world’s first TV using organic light-emitting diodes. Unlike LCDs, OLED TVs don’t need a light behind the panel, because panel itself is made of fluorescent organic materials. That allows OLEDs to far out-do even the skinniest LCDs. Sony’s set measures a hard-to-believe 0.12 inches thick. However, it’s also only 11 inches on the diagonal. One measurement is quite big, though: A price of 200,000 Yen ($1,726) when it goes on sale this December in Japan.—Sean Captain
By Sean CaptainPosted 09.18.2007 at 5:54 pm2 Comments
Anything’s a screen for the Pico Projector
Texas Instruments’s Pico Projector is small enough to fit in a cellphone (albeit a chunky one, if the prototype we saw is any indication) but bright enough to shine a 15-inch-wide image even in a well-lit room. TI first showed the device at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and it’s made only one public appearance since then, said TI representatives who busted it out during a small reception in New York last night.
Seeing really is believing with this tech. Point the Pico at any even vaguely flat surface—a wall, someone’s back, the palm of your hand—and it’s movie time. The model I tried works by shining red, green, and blue lasers on a tiny digital micromirror device—the same kind of chip that powers DLP movie-theater and living room projectors and rear-projection TVs. A new version in development uses light emitting diodes to save money, power and heat. Good thing, too, because the Pico I held last year made a loud whirring sound, courtesy of the cooling fan.
So when can you have your own Pico? It will likely first appear in a cellphone, and probably next year, said TI representative Kateri Gemperle. Will the first cellphone maker break the news at CES in early January? “We don’t think a manufacturer would let CES go by without announcing something,” said Gemperle. —Sean Captain
Posted 01.10.2007 at 11:43 am 0 Comments
seems to be the year of the LCD. In TV land, liquid crystal displays
have always played little sibling to plasma technology. The most
obvious form of tutelage: They have literally been small in comparison.
At last year's CES, for example, Panasonic unveiled a plasma TV
measuring 108 inches diagonally. Meanwhile Sharp introduced the largest
LCD panel—at "only" 65 inches. This
year, Panasonic was still pimping its 103-inch TV, while Sharp stunned
everyone by debuting a 108-inch panel. For the first time ever, the
biggest TV in the world is an LCD. Size isn't all that matters, though. Companies also introduced technologies to zap LCD's other weaknesses vis-a-vis plasma:
Motion video is a classic problem.
Liquid crystals move sluggishly compared to fast-firing plasma pixels.
So in action scenes, images on LCD sets tend to have a smeared look
because the screen can't refresh fast enough. Until recently, 8
milliseconds was considered fast for an LCD pixel to turn on and off.
This year LG Electronics showed off TVs with a 5ms response, and Sharp
set the record with 4ms. The faster pixels allowed Sharp to double the
screen speed from 60fps to 120fps. Philips and Samsung also showed off
120fps sets. Demos of panning video with the old and new technologies
made the improvement clear.
Contrast ratio is another weakness.
LCD screens usually cant produce dark tones as well as plasma, because
some glow from the fluorescent backlight always leaks through the
screen. With grayish blacks, the ratio of light to dark is reduced, and
LCD images lack the depth found on plasma. But Sharp claims its new TVs
hit a contrast ratio of 15,000 to one by dimming the backlight as
needed. Plus, the faster pixels can shut down all the way before
switching to the next frame of video. Samsung bested this performance
by using a grid of light-emitting diodes as a backlight. It can
selectively brighten or dim the lights behind different parts of the
screen to deepen shadows and brighten highlights. With it Samsung
claims a 100,000 to one contrast ratio, and its side-by side comparison
of old and new technologise was dramatic. But Sharp doesn't take that
lying down. Using undisclosed technology, it demonstrated a prototype
TV that hits a million to one ratio.
LEDs are also expanding color.
Until recently, no TV could produce all the hues called for in the US
television standard, but plasma came closest to 100 percent. With LEDs
instead of fluorescent bulbs behind their screens, LCDs are now beating
plasma and going beyond the old TV standard. In fact, Sony is backing a
new system called x.v.Color that takes advantage of the newly expanded
color gamut. LG and Samsung are also bringing out LED-illuminated LCD
sets. —Sean Captain
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.