- October 2002 -
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The technology that has driven TVs ever since the TV was invented is the cathode ray tube. It's a wonderful technology, capable of delivering stunning pictures - and at very low prices. But it also has an important limitation: the larger the screen size, the larger the CRT - and that means weight and size that is unacceptable to many people.
In the world of displays - TVs and projectors - for the home, we're starting to see the emergence of an interesting phenomenon. We're increasingly favoring larger and larger screens for our homes - and that's creating something of a 'technology dislocation'.
But first, why larger screens? Simply, because the larger the screen, the more compelling the entertainment experience. With sports, it's like being at the game. With movies, it's like being at the movie theater. And with console games, you're part of the action. A large image fills your field of view, immersing you in what's happening instead of just viewing the action.
The opportunity arises, therefore, for an alternative technology to challenge the CRT's dominance in the home. For many people, that technology is plasma - 'the TV you hang on a wall'. But plasma technology continues to be unaffordable for the large majority - and so TV manufacturers are turning their attention elsewhere.
And, increasingly, they're turning it to DLP™ technology from Texas Instruments. Invented by TI's Dr. Larry Hornbeck back in 1987, DLP™ technology has already revolutionized the world of business presentations by enabling the development of projectors that are smaller and lighter and with superior image quality than is possible with any competing projection and display technology.
Now, products for the home are beginning to feature DLP™ technology in two areas. The first of these is projectors. Once the preserve of the very wealthy - or very enthusiastic - home theater systems enabled by DLP™ technology are becoming available at very affordable prices. Smaller, lighter and more attractive than earlier projectors, they're capable of delivering a stunning picture that can be far larger than is possible with a large screen TV. And because they're small, light and bright, they're uniquely flexible: you can take them anywhere you want to project a big picture, and set them up in moments. The market for home entertainment projectors is the fastest growing part of the projector market.
But it's in large screen TVs that DLP™ technology is really starting to make an impression. Earlier this year, Samsung was the first company to launch a second generation large screen TV based on DLP™ technology. With screen sizes of 43" and 50", these sets were characterized not only by their astonishing image quality, but also by the fact that their weight and size is a fraction of the weight and size of large screen TVs using CRT technology. With a slim elegance normally associated with plasma technology, one of the most remarkable things about these new TVs is that their prices are a fraction of comparable units based on plasma technology. So what can we expect to see from DLP™ technology in the coming months? The answer is: "more of the same". Although it is already setting the standard for image quality in home entertainment applications, we know that it can be improved still further. The work we've done on DLP Cinema™ technology - now installed at over 100 movie theaters worldwide, and enabling the dream of digital cinema to become a reality - has taught us a great deal about what it takes to deliver an outstanding picture.
Contrast ratio, for example, is an aspect of image quality that's not widely understood. Many people know that a high contrast ratio enables a higher degree of detail to be seen in a picture - detail that brings a picture to life, making it more realistic. But what's less well understood is how the human visual system relies on contrast ratio to help it define edges and boundaries - and the role that contrast ratio therefore plays in how we perceive a picture's sharpness. Contrast ratio is an area where DLP™ technology currently leads - and is an area where you can expect to see still further improvement as changes are made to the way in which the Digital Micromirror Device - the DMD that is at the heart of DLP™ technology - is fabricated.
Projectors and displays featuring DLP™ technology will continue to get brighter. An innovative new TI technology - Sequential Color Recapture, or SCR - originally announced at SID in 2001 will start to appear in commercial product that will be up to 40% brighter as a result. For consumers planning to use front projectors in a room where the ambient light is not totally controlled, this will mean more flexibility in where and when they use them - and in pictures that are even more compelling. For manufacturers of large screen TVs, having more brightness with which to work enables them to avoid design compromises - further improving the quality of the image.
And prices will continue to come down - although perhaps not at the rate they have been doing. In the projector market overall, price reductions have been approaching 25% per year - and will continue on this downward curve. And the price of large screen TVs will also continue to decline: first generation large screen TVs based on DLP™ technology cost upwards of $10,000 - while today's second generation sets start a little north of $3,000.
In summary, it's all good news for the consumer. The quality of home entertainment projectors and display will continue to improve even on its current high level, while new levels of affordability will make products featuring DLP™ technology attractive to growing numbers of people who just can't wait any longer for that large screen experience in their home.
Ian McMurray has been with Texas Instruments for close to twenty years, and has held a variety of country, regional and worldwide marketing responsibilities. He has been with the DLP™ Products division of Texas Instruments since the first products enabled by DLP™ technology shipped to market in early 1996.