Page last updated at 18:17 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

The future of television

By Chris Long
Las Vegas

Over the last few years, the technology both behind and inside the TV has developed almost beyond recognition.

TV monitor
Widescreen has been followed by high definition and more
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were countless ideas for the future of television - from a TV screen that wanders around your wall - to the dumping of your remote control, allowing you to simply wave at "the box" instead.

Power saving was also big at the show, highlighting how far technology has come.

For a lot of the world, television has been changing already from the more square 4:3 screen to the more rectangular 16:9 widescreen.

But once we got used to that, everyone started talking about high definition, this is where they upped the number of pixels to show pictures in more detail.

What is known as ultra high definition, a phenomenal 7680 pixels by 4320, is currently only available on enormous screens but is eventually aimed at our televisions.

Refresh rates

The refresh rates of televisions - the number of times per second the picture updates on the screen - is increasing.

In Europe it is mostly 50 hertz and in America 60 hertz. The higher the number, the less judder we are supposed to see on the television.

Bruce Walker from Toshiba explained: "Standard TVs are 60 frames a second ... our next level up in technology is called our clear frame 120 hertz.

Bruce Walker
Bruce Walker: New developments in TV mean "breathtaking clarity"
"We have taken the 60 frames of video and doubled it. We take frame a and frame b and create a frame in between it making it 120 frames a second on screen.

"Because the human brain and eye has a thing called persistence of vision, even at 120 frames a second you can sometimes perceive a little bit of lack of clarity in the image.

"So we put the images up on the screen at 120 frames per second, and basically, in between each frame, we blink the back light to black, interrupting the persistence of vision, giving an even more breathtaking clarity of image."

LED television

And while we are on the idea of picture clarity, one of the new products on show was the bizarrely named LCD screen with a LED back light.

Mr Walker explained: "The traditional LCD panel has a very bright back light and in front of it is the LCD display and individual LCDs open and close to allow light to go through to see your picture.

TV monitor
A new generation of LED televisions will deliver a high contrast picture
"Now Current LCDs by Toshiba have a dynamic backlight so on a dark scene where you don't need a lot of light, the back light dims.

"On a very bright scene the back light brightens up so you get very bright whites and very rich blacks.

But to take that one step further, instead of florescent lights behind the screen there is a full grid of LEDs and now if one corner of the screen is bright the LEDs burn bright.

If the bottom of the screen is dark, the LEDs can turn off so individual zones can be controlled based on the incoming signal.

Laser TV

One more innovation which looks to revolutionise back projection screens, and perhaps all screens, is Laser TV.

Nick Norton, of Mitsubishi explained: "Laser TV is a brand new technology for television and differs profoundly from LCD and plasma."

"Laser is the purest light source on the planet and because of its precision and clarity, we can produce twice the colour gamut of traditional TVs.

"We are demonstrating LaserVue in between a top-end 65 inch LCD and a top-end 60 inch plasma.

"To showcase the expanded colour gamut, we have added power consumption meters to show the energy-efficient nature of laser."

There can be little doubt that there is a lot going on in the television market. The only problem is that we can't really tell what is the leap forward and what is the good looking waste of time.

Is it churlish to wish that the television manufacturers would get together to produce one great, low-power, good-looking television technology rather than so many best endeavours?

A bright future on display
05 Dec 08 |  Click

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