It’s Ending the Year with a Look at Trends and TV

Ending the Year with a Look at Trends and TV

by Stephen P. Atwood

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We find ourselves at the end of another year of exciting innovations and new discoveries in our industry.  We have seen exciting breakthroughs in many areas, including backlighting of LCDs yielding wider color gamuts and even more efficiency, continuing increases in resolution and pixel density of LCDs, commercialization of large-format OLED panels, commercialization of flexible and curved displays of many sizes and technologies, new anti-reflection glass coatings, alternative transparent conducting materials for touch and display applications, novel demonstrations of 3-D light field and holographics, and much more.  New application categories have emerged, such as “wearable” – which we used to call mobile or personal devices – and new paradigms for touch and gesture inputs appeared in several new products this year.  (All of this makes for a very interesting holiday shopping season as we browse in stores and on-line for gifts.)  The marketplace for displays is even more diverse and vibrant as we look forward to the great innovations to come in 2015.  Hopefully, each issue of ID this year has helped you better understand the newest display innovations and what they mean to the devices and applications they enable. 

Since this is the end-of-the-year issue for ID, our focus once again is on the world of television displays as we take an in-depth look at several important innovation areas, including ultra-high definition (UHD), 3-D light-field displays, and curved displays.  All of these are important elements in the formula for future advancements of television.  In fact, it was in our television issue from back in 2011 that industry analyst and contributing editor Paul Semenza wrote about “The Ultimate TV” in his article, “The TV of the Future.”  Paul wrote: “By 2015, we can expect much higher resolutions to be available (at least 4K × 2K), enabled by new backplane technologies.  Some of the additional resolution will likely be utilized to implement glasses-free (autostereoscopic) 3-D.”  Well, here we are today with LCDs utilizing oxide and poly-Si TFTs, the availability of many versions of UHD-resolution screens, and lots of exciting work under way in the area of true 3-D displays that are even capable of creating parallax and image occlusion effects identical to the way we actually see physical objects. 

Of course, we are a few years away from having light-field TVs in our living rooms, but thanks to some help from guest editor Nikhil Balram this month, we can bring you two important articles on the subject: the first is an amazing in-depth description of the technology of light-field displays and all the various ideas for embodiment being demonstrated or theorized up to the present by authors Xu Liu and Haifeng Li in their Frontline Technology feature, “The Progress of Light-Field 3-D Displays.”  What strikes me as most hopeful is that because of the advancements in supporting technologies such as computing power in silicon and speed and resolution of light modulating devices (imagers), the technology is rapidly evolving and looking a lot more commercially viable than it seemed even a year or so ago. 

We follow this up with our next Frontline Technology feature on the subject titled “Personal Near-to-Eye Light-Field Displays,” in which authors Wanmin Wu, Kathrin Berkner, Ivana Tošić, and Nikhil Balram explore the many possible embodiments and applications for personal-use true 3-D displays.  These are not just augmented stereoscopic glasses but a family of devices that render true augmented-reality displays with light-field methods.  Exciting work in the form of prototypes is already under way and carefully described in detail by the authors.  Some additional introduction of both articles is provided by Nikhil in his guest editor’s note, where he observes that “These two articles remind us of the rich diversity and potential that light-field displays offer.” 

While true 3-D is the future of TV, UHD is part of the present landscape, and the best way to understand what it means to the marketplace is to read our Display Marketplace feature, “UHD TV Strives for Consumer Recognition,” by IHS analysts Jusy Hong and Veronica Thayer.  Here, they discuss some critical issues with regard to increased consumer adoption – such as general awareness of the advantages, content availability, and price compression.  These are familiar themes to any of us who have followed the market, but more complex and promising this time because of the diversity of content delivery methods and the motivations of various content providers as well as set manufacturers. 

However, for UHD to roll out smoothly, the various members of the industry need to get together and embrace a uniform set of standards that provide for content creation, encoding, and delivery in a way that takes full advantage of these new UHD TVs.   This is the subject tackled by our next Frontline Technology feature, “UHD Calls for New TV Infrastructure” by author Wade Wan.  Wade explores the current efforts and proposals under way and provides a detailed view of some of the technical challenges, such as encoding schemes, bandwidth, and content protection.  This is a timely subject that has been getting treatment in several other sources and on-line publications, so we are pleased to have this coverage in ID as well.  This topical coverage of UHD technology was developed for us by our Guest Editor Steve Sechrist, who provides some additional color on the subject in his guest editor’s note. 

Another topic that comes up frequently in conversation is the debate between the merits of LCD and OLED screens, and especially with the added variable of curved screens.  This month we welcome David Choi from LG Display, who presents his perspective in a guest opinion article titled “OLED TV Provides Superior Viewability.”  In David’s view, there are a myriad of benefits to OLED technology, and when combined with the purported advantages of curved screens, the combination yields a truly impressive platform for future TV viewing.  To be honest, I was a believer in OLED technology already, and now I am saving my pennies in hopes of bringing one of these OLED TV sets home soon myself. 

From the LCD curved-TV camp, we have another opinion piece, “The Curved Display Makes an Impression,” by Samsung’s Nam-Seok Roh.  This article delves further into the benefits of curved TVs, making a case for why they are more than a fad and how they offer a truly optimal immersive viewing experience. 

In case you think we forgot, in the last issue we promised the final element of our comprehensive review of Display Week 2014, and thanks to the great efforts of author Geoff Walker, we have this month the review of touch technology for you.  As Geoff explains, Display Week has become the leading show in the industry for exhibition of new touch technology, and the depth and breadth of presentations on touch were amazing this year.  Geoff, along with his colleagues on the program committee, work tirelessly to help organize all of this content, and his coverage of this year’s new offerings is thorough and highly valuable to all of us who help deliver touch-enabled products to the marketplace. 

Before I close, I just want to thank everyone who works so hard to put ID magazine together throughout the year.  Our team of guest editors and contributing editors helped us create a great lineup of articles for 2014 and I cannot thank them enough for their hard work.  Our editorial staff, consisting of Jenny Donelan and Jay Morreale, did an outstanding job managing the production process and producing our in-house articles.  Our cover designs this year continued to amaze, thanks to both Jody Robertson-Schramm, who has worked with us for many years, and Jodi Buckley, who joined us this year to produce several covers as well.  It is an honor to work with this outstanding team and I truly hope you enjoyed reading the results throughout the year.  As we all approach the holidays, I hope you find time to reflect on the many things that make your lives special, including family and friends that you hold dear.  Life is much more than just the great work we do in this display industry.  Cherish those things that are most important to you and nurture them so they enrich your life in return.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year!  •