Last week, news of a display technology demonstration from Samsung Electronics was reported in Nature Photonics. This is a thin film technology based on “quantum dots“, and was built on a flexible substrate. This approach is quite different from OLED technology; the nanoparticles emit light when excited by an electrical charge, and the color of the light is limited to a narrow range of the spectrum. By using particles of specific sizes that emit specific colors, you can create a stable display with excellent color performance. One of the achievements covered in the report is a method of transferring stripes of the quantum dot material to an active matrix backplane.
According to some sources, these displays have the potential to be far more energy efficient than even OLEDs. On the other hand, this is still very much at the laboratory stage. The materials only have about a 10,000 hour life to half brightness (compared with 60,000 hours or more for plasma and LCD flat panels), and we’re still a long way off from even pilot production of quantum dot displays. But now we have another technology to track.
Roku is throwing a party to celebrate the sale of the one millionth Roku box at the end of last year. The company has launched its “1 Million Fans Giveaway” promotion for this popular network media player.
You can enter the contest by uploading a picture that will become part of an online mosaic picture or posting a comment. You can participate either through Facebook or Twitter. 50 prizes will be awarded in all. You can enter or find out more details here: www.roku.com/1million. Good luck!
Mitsubishi has developed yet another twist on the flat panel television, according to a report in Tech-On. Instead of using LEDs as a solid-state light source for an LCD panel, the design uses a red laser along with a special, high-brightness, cyan LED. The combination of the two light sources create a mixed white light that reportedly has better color performance than the standard white LEDs or the combination of red-green-blue LEDs.
One advantage of this design is that it uses far fewer components than one that relies solely on LEDs. The red laser is about 10 times brighter, so you need one-tenth as many lasers as you would LEDs. This creates a challenge in the form of designing light guides that will mix the different-colored lights adequately, however.
This new backlight technology for LCD flat panels is not to be confused with the all-laser rear-projection HDTVs that Mitsubishi has been showing for several years.
Well, you can’t fault them for trying, I guess. Cable companies can pay a fee to the Copyright Office and then capture over-the-air television broadcast signals for distribution over their cable network. Upstart ivi.tv plunked down its cash, and then started distributing the live broadcasts from the New York and Los Angeles markets (among others), and retransmitted them over its network. The problem is that their network was the entire Internet.
It was a clever strategy, but like those who skip April 15th by claiming that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about a federal income tax, ivi.tv’s strategy did not find a sympathetic ear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that it was unlikely that ivi.tv would be successful in its claim that it was a cable company, that it had done irreparable harm to the owners of the copyrighted content (which included the three major networks and Major League Baseball), and was directed to shut down. In specific, the ruling blocked ivi.tv from “streaming over mobile telephone systems and/or the Internet of any of the broadcast television programming in which any plaintiff owns a copyright.”
It sounds like lights out for the rogue service, but it’s not over yet. In a statement from Chief Executive Todd Weaver, he claims that the judge’s ruling was based on the false assumption that ivi.tv was in violation of FCC regulations. To the contrary, he claims that his company “has met with the all the commisioner’s offices of the FCC repeatedly and has received assurances that we are in full and complete compliance.”
So for the moment, it appears that ivi.tv cannot continue to rebroadcast the captured content to subscribers over the Internet, but that it may have grounds to appeal the injunction and perhaps ultimately win its case. This should be interesting.
Comcast has announced that it’s launching Xfinity 3D, a new 24/7 channel that will have nothing but stereoscopic 3D content. According to the press release, the channel will carry “concerts from top-tier artists, sporting events, more than a dozen movies and original 3D programming.” (Fans of the serial comma might notice that its use here would eliminate any confusion about whether the “dozen” applies to the original programming or not.)
It sounds great at first glance, but wait. A dozen movies? Even if they were two hours long, that’s only 24 hours of content. I expect that this means you will have multiple opportunities to see all the different choices within a single week. And the week after, and the week after that. As it turns out, the movies are sparsely sprinkled throughout the daily schedule, with the bulk of the time taken up with the same sort of endless documentaries that were standard fare for the early HDTV channels. You can check out the schedule here: http://www.locatetv.com/listings/comcast-3dtv
The news about Xfinity 3D is not that it is must-see content, but instead that Comcast is willing to devote a channel to what amounts to an endless 3D demonstration. It may not be compelling yet, but it will give the owners of 3D HDTVs something to show quickly when the neighbors or family drop by.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re in some store, looking at a beautiful new HDTV or other sparkly shiny electronics gear, and the price looks pretty attractive. But you can’t quite bring yourself to pull the trigger, because you haven’t comparison shopped the item yet. What if you could get it cheaper somewhere else? But that means that you have to leave this store, and drive all around comparing prices (and making your head hurt). Isn’t there an easier way?
Well, Best Buy is hoping that they can simplify the process for you. If you have an iPhone or Android smartphone, you can download the free Best Buy app. This handy little program will automatically give you access to the latest sales flyer, which is certainly convenient. But you can also use it to scan bar codes, and it will let you see the price for that item at Best Buy. Instant buying confidence, and you didn’t have to drive all around town.
Personally, my comparison shopping strategy is driven by diminishing returns. If I find that two or three stores have the same price for a product, I generally stop comparing and buy it. I figure that the chances are slim that some store will have a significantly lower price. However, if I get two prices and they are significantly far apart, I’ll search a bit more, because there may be someone out there who is discounting it even further. In either case, the Best Buy app could save me some travel and time.
Okay, I’ll confess that I have not yet been caught up in the touch tablet frenzy. (I have never looked at my notebook computer and said to myself, “Dang! I wish that sucker didn’t have a keyboard!“) But I get it that people love their tablets and they are using them for all sorts of things. And here comes Sanus with a clever device for iPad owners: the iPad Mount Adapter.
This device lists for less than $25, and has mounting holes compatible with the VESA 100 x 100 standard. This means that you can attach it to just about any table or wall mount. You can then pop your iPad into the adapter so you can view it hands-free, and then pop it back out when you want to take it with you. It’s a simple and clever design. Get one for your office so you can monitor information from the Web or other sources while you work on your computer. (You know, the one with a keyboard.)
HDMI Licensing is the organization charged with protecting the intellectual property pool for the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) standard. This has become the first choice for digital high definition connections for home entertainment devices and accessories, and is supported by more than 1,000 companies who have licensed these patents.
Not all manufacturers have bothered to pay for the rights to make HDMI products, however, and according to a press release from HDMI Licensing, the agency has been stepping into them in a big way. In the past year, the group has helped the US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seize 32 shipments of counterfeit HDMI products at ports from Alaska to Florida. The devices ranged from cables to DVD players.
These actions help by protecting the investment the other manufacturers made in licensing the required patents. The good news for consumers is that this still doesn’t appear to have impacted either the supply or prices of HDMI products. You can still find good quality HDMI cables for under $10. (There’s no need to spend more on a cable, at least initially. The connection is usually pass/fail, and if the cheap cable works, you should be fine. A cable costing 10 times as much made with unobtanium won’t deliver any better results.)
From the Other Shoe Finally Drops Department, the Boxee Box now has Netflix. An announcement on the Boxee blog let the world know that the latest revision of the software has given users access to streaming content from Netflix. Now, to be fair, D-Link released the device last November. So it has just been a few months until this hitch got smoothed out. But Netflix had been promised as a feature from the beginning, and the runaway success of Netflix streaming has only whetted consumer appetites for access.
The bottom line is that this is an important step for the Boxee Box, which can now take its place among the many other network media players and Internet-connected Blu-ray players that give to affordable ways to add “smart TV” features to your older television sets. And when we say “smart TV”, we mean “access to Netflix“.
I have seen the future, and I like it. Corning is responsible for most of the glass used in LCD flat panel HDTVs, among other things, and naturally the company can be expected to have a rather “glassy-eyed” view of things, if you’ll pardon the expression. But I was not expecting anything like this. The company has put together a high-production video showing some of the ways that its glass might find its way into our lives in the years to come. See for yourself:
The cool part is that I know many of the technologies required to make this vision a reality are already here. For the most part, this is not just making up futuristic stuff, but is grounded in reality.
And I have to tell you, I think I’d like living in that world.