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
Oh, the indignities of being a flat-screen TV purveyor. Each year companies guess and plan and read tea leaves and pray, trying to find that magic number of inches that will make one brand’s giant lightbox gianter than that of its competitors, in time for the CES pissing contest. Last year, plasma screens outperformed LCDs, with records for the largest of the former hovering around 100 inches and the latter somewhere in the 70s.
So design engineers for Sharp, Panasonic, LG, etc. gambled big in ’07, increasing LCD screen sizes by up to 30 inches, and then crossing their fingers. CES lore has it that the big-screen market race is so intense that companies—not knowing what their competitors will bring to the table— often create posters in advance of the show proclaiming things like “World’s Largest TV,” which they keep ready to unfurl in the event that their claims turn out to be true.
What I want to know is, what is it like to be the guys who get beat out by just an inch? Or, perhaps more humiliatingly, who get beaten by a full eight inches? That is, in fact, what happened this week to the poor fellas at LG, who proudly trumpeted that theirs was the “World’s First” 100-inch LCD TV— an impressive piece of equipment to be sure, don’t get me wrong—mere hundreds of feet from Sharp’s 108-inch LCD. Okay, maybe it was first in that the LG booth got set up before the Sharp booth or something, but still: Ouch. I imagine the feeling must be akin to being Kobe Bryant and having your wife leave you for Manute Bol.
In the video below, Jonathan Coulton and I talk to the winners—and more entertainingly, the losers— of CES 2007’s battle of the big screens. —Megan Miller
How well do the hired guns and gun-ettes at CES know their spiels? Are the Vonage girls in the Fanta-colored minidresses just pretty faces, or are they shrewd and highly trained sales people? We sought to find the answers to these and other burning questions today as we roamed the halls of CES, checking out gadgets both lame and cool (standouts in the latter category included Samsung’s Bluetooth TV and Ion’s iProjector—both fully pimped in the video below). Oh yeah: and we also good-naturedly heckled the hawkers.
Seriously, we didn’t have much else to do. MacWorld’s earth-shattering iPhone announcement stole a lot of Vegas’s thunder today, so much so that the CNN guys wandered around bored during a two-hour production break in which CES reporters’ services (including my own) were no longer needed due to a glut of stories rolling in from San Fran. In fact, maybe it’s just me, but there seemed to be a generalized feeling of ennui at the show, as if all the surprises had dried up till tomorrow and we might as well do eff-all in the meantime. Which could explain how Jonathan and I ended up testing horse-riding ab machines and drinking beers outside the show on a grassy knoll. Well, on second thought, we probably would have done that stuff anyway. Watch the silliness in the video below. —Megan Miller
In true Apple fashion, Steve Jobs and co. annually ditch the biggest electronics trade show in the world in favor of their own party, Macworld. The strategy seems to be working out just fine, because today most everyone here in Vegas is talking about the much-ballyhooed and now bona fide iPhone, and with good reason: This phone is hot.
As expected, it's a phone. It's a video iPod. It's an Internet device. It's a mobile OS X computer. And it's beautiful. The sleek phone is all screen, featuring an adaptable touch-based interface that, if anything like the iPod's ingenious scroll-wheel, promises to change the way people control their mobile devices. And beyond the interface, the iPhone packs in practically every high-end mobile phone feature and more: Wi-Fi, EDGE data capabilities (via Cingular, Apple's exclusive partner through 2009), full iTunes integration including CoverFlow, free push email from Yahoo, a Google Maps application, and, well, the list keeps going.
Playing second fiddle is Apple TV, the living room media box announced last September which also debuted today. But it's clearly the iPhone's day in San Francisco. And judging by the amount of people here in the press room watching Steve Jobs's keynote on their laptops, it's the iPhone's day in Las Vegas, too. —John Mahoney
Looking for our CES coverage? PopSci's editors are currently scouring the floor bringing you the best tech from the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Find photos, video and more at popsci.typepad.com/ces2007.
Honda's Asimo demos on their North Hall stage have been drawing large crowds, likely full of people hoping to see the bipedal 'bot take another tumble. Monday's demos didn't come through in that respect, but the gathered onlookeres were instead treated to a different spectacle: Asimo's "running" capabilities. While it may look like a child astronaut urgently needing a restroom (or a child astronaut who has mastered a sort of fast-motion pimp walk), Asimo's four-mph jog—in which both feet leave the ground for a brief .08 seconds at the height of the stride—is nonetheless a pretty amazing sight. —John Mahoney
Check out the little guy warming up and then making the dash below:
It's a given that demo presentations on the CES show floor be completely over the top. But this headset-wearing Intel presenter easily took home Monday's "most ridiculously enthusiastic carnival hawker" crown. Tuesday's winner will have a lot to live up to. —John Mahoney
See automotive editor Eric Adams's photo-guide to the slickest new rides and concepts unveiled at the industry's premier event in Detroit
By Eric Adams
Posted 01.09.2007 at 3:00 am 0 Comments
Things are a teensy bit weird here in Detroit. It's a cross between Wacky Wednesday and Alice in Wonderland: Nothing is as it should be, and some things are downright trippy. Aside from the weather, which veered from drearily lukewarm and rainy to all snow and freezing wind, the true delirium began when you stepped inside. Within the main halls at Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center, guarded by a 15-foot-tall statue of boxing champ Joe Louis, things have taken a turn for the surreal. Consider:
LG, the Korean consumer electronics giant, made a big splash early this CES with the unveiling of the Super Multi Blue player, capable of playing both of the warring high-def disc formats, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Teamed with the Chocolate music phone, the #1 CDMA handset in the U.S. and a solid line of HD TVs, LG has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. —John Mahoney
Take a quick tour of the booth below and click the individual images for captions.
Im here at CES, camped out with the rest of the PopSci.com team at an envy-inducing sweet spot in the back corner of the pressroom—probably one of about five female reporters in a roiling sea of hundreds of thousands of gadget-loving dudes. Ive spent my entire career working for mens magazines, so being the only chick around isnt a new experience, but the sheer volume of testosterone up in here could drive a girl to wear a burqa. Adding to the vibe are the facts that the Adult Video Awards are coming up this week, and that many of the ladies hanging out in the casinos at night are escorts. So theres this silent question hovering in the air whenever a good-looking girl walks by: Porn star?
Anyhoo, walking the halls today, weve spotted a number of trends, toys, and funny stuff that well be hitting on throughout the week in a series of video posts (Jonathan Coulton and Future Girl Live at CES!) to give you a taste of the Vegas craziness.
My faves among the goodies Ive seen so far today have been 1) the awesomely tiny, full-functioning Model 02 PC from OQO: its about the size of a Sidekick, but it acts like a laptop, and its the first mini computer to run Windows Vista; 2) the Wildcharge conduction plate charger that powers up cell phones and other wireless gadgets wirelessly (right now this device requires model-specific docks for various cell phones, iPods and PSPs, which is less than ideal, but it's a good first-gen version of a breakthrough technology that could become the standard for chargers); and 3) the Garmin Astro GPS dog tracking device, which lets you connect to several dogs at a time and is meant to help hunters keep track of their retrievers and quarry. The transmitter piece is kind of big and clunky—I wish they'd make a smaller one I could put on my cat to see where he goes on his daily prowls, but at $650, the Astro's much less a toy and more a serious device for locating valuable animals. —Megan Miller
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.