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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 06:48 GMT
Future television switches on
By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News, Las Vegas

television displays

Everything about the televisions on show at CES is extreme.

Alongside a raft of new high definition LCD displays was the world's largest plasma display - a 150in behemoth from Panasonic - the world's thinnest commercial screen - just 3mm thick - and the world's first laser television.

The latter was debuted by Mitsubishi, a company that has claimed a number of television firsts including the first true high definition sets.

The firm describes its laser technology as a "new category" of screen, in addition to the likes of LCD and plasma displays.

It claims that current high-definition televisions only display 40% of the colour spectrum the eye can see. Lasers, it says, offer double that.

There is a lot to overcome in terms of physics and the materials
Stan Glasgow, Sony

"Laser is all about light source," said Frank DeMartin of Mitsubishi. "It's the purest light source on the planet; it's the most intense light source on the planet."

The 65in sets use three lasers - red, green and blue - that project the image from the rear of the television. The result is vivid colour and crisp images.

Third dimension

The firm has not revealed how much the screens will cost but said it will start to ship them to retailers later this year.

Other firms have expressed an interest in the technology.

Mitsubishi laser television
Laser television offer crisp images and rich colours

"We are studying laser technology but still it is far from commercialisation," said Sang Huang Shin of Samsung.

Instead, Samsung has decided to focus its efforts on other television technologies.

The Korean firm has shown off 3D plasma screens, which it says will be available to consumers in 2008 and will be a world's first.

The 42in and 50in screens rely on software, running on a PC connected to the screen, and polarised glasses to create the 3D image.

"We cannot realise the 3D function without glasses," said Mr Shin.

Although technologies do exist to produce a 3D experience without the use of spectacles, according to Mr Shin, they have drawbacks.

"Without glasses, eyes quickly become tired," he said.

Bright lights

Samsung are also showing off their prototype OLED displays.

Organic light emitting diode (OLED) televisions are brighter than LCD displays and are ultra thin.

OLED television
Sony introduced the first commercial OLED screen last year

Sony released the first commercial set in October 2007. The 11in display was just 3mm thick, including the case.

OLED screens are more energy efficient than LCD panels as they do not need a backlight to boost brightness.

"The huge advantage is that it is an emissive material," said Stan Glasgow of Sony. "So we are directly putting the colours on the screen."

But it is difficult and expensive to make large screens using the technology.

Sony is showing off a 27in prototype at CES, whilst Samsung has a 31in screen.

"It's very complex - it's a new technology," said Mr Glasgow. "There is a lot to overcome in terms of physics and the materials."

The diodes emit a brilliant white light when attached to an electricity supply.

We're going to be able to recognise who is watching the set by their eyes and change parental controls automatically
Stan Glasgow

Different organic materials produce different colours and are combined to produce a colour display.

The screens are brighter than LCD panels and also have better contrast ratio - resulting in sharper pictures.

At the moment the televisions are extremely expensive. Sony's first 11in screen costs 850.

As a result, Mr Glasgow believes that it will continue to be a niche product for some time.

"It will be the premium television of the future," he said.

Fun walls

If and when it finally comes to mass market, the ultra thin televisions will be competing with televisions packed with a range of new features.

Panasonic television
Panasonic showed off the world's largest plasma screen

"I think we are going to be able to interact with voice and movement," said Mr Glasgow.

"We're going to be able to recognise who is watching the set by their eyes and change parental controls automatically."

Some firms are already showing off prototypes of the technology at CES.

Panasonic have demonstrated its interactive life wall which features facial recognition to bring up customised displays and information.

The large scale prototype which is envisaged to take up the entire wall of a room also detects the distance from the viewer to the screen and optimises the size of the image accordingly.

"I think we are gong to see a whole bunch of really consumer friendly applications that will make the TV much more automatic for people."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A demonstration of how 3D TV works



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