[opendtv] News: Mitsubishi Harnesses Colored Lasers to Produce New-Generation Lightweight HDTV

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2006 07:57:56 -0400


Mitsubishi Harnesses Colored Lasers to Produce New-Generation Lightweight HDTV


Published: April 3, 2006

As if shopping for new flat-panel, high-definition television is not 
hard enough,  Mitsubishi is scheduled to announce this week that it 
has developed commercial television that uses colored lasers to 
display bright, deep images on large, thin, lightweight screens - 
surpassing images seen on film. The television sets, which Mitsubishi 
is calling the first of their kind, are expected to reach stores 
sometime late next year.

At the heart of the first generation of this new television is an 
existing rear-projection technology called digital light processing. 
In the past, this technology, developed by Texas Instruments, used 
white-light mercury lamps as the television's light source. With 
laser television, separate red, green and blue lasers are used in 
conjunction with an HDTV chip, said Frank DeMartin, vice president 
for marketing and product development at Mitsubishi.

He and Mitsubishi engineers said this provided a new look in 
large-screen units, signaling a move to lighter, slimmer profiles for 
rear-projection television. In terms of performance, Mr. DeMartin 
said, laser television promises a greater range and intensity of 
colors. He said the new sets would be made with compact, sculptured 
cabinets and remain relatively light because the screens would be 
advanced plastics rather than the glass common in plasma television 
flat-panel units.

The screens will be so lightweight that the need for frames will be 
significantly lessened, Mr. DeMartin added. This will give the 
television a cleaner, practically all-screen look.

Its lighter weight, about half that of plasma models with comparable 
screen sizes, will also have a smaller footprint, he said. For 
example, a 50-inch plasma or L.C.D. television requires stands up to 
17 inches deep to rest securely, Mr. DeMartin said.

Laser television technology is not new. For years, engineers have 
experimented in laboratories and research centers, seeking to 
illuminate television images with lasers. But the most optimistic 
outlook had been for laser television to be available in two to three 
years. Power and costs were barriers to bringing the technology to 
the marketplace.

But Marty Zanfino, the director of product development for 
Mitsubishi, said those issues had been resolved, resulting in 
large-screen laser television that is expected to be competitively 
priced with plasma television in sizes of 52 inches and larger.

Mr. DeMartin said laser television would use about a third the power 
of conventional, large-screen models that depend on high-power lamps. 
In such television, he said, the lamps are required to be on at full 
power whenever the sets that use them are on. But Mitsubishi's new 
lasers, which are based in semiconductors, turn on and off when 
needed. For example, Mr. DeMartin said, when black is required in an 
image - still a challenge for some plasma-based television - the 
laser switches off.

These solid-state lasers, he added, will greatly outlast lamps. As a 
light source, he said, they are practically "permanent," meaning that 
the lasers should last for the set's lifetime.

A 52-inch model of the Mitsubishi laser television is scheduled to be 
demonstrated when the company shows its new lines on Friday in 
Huntington Beach, Calif. Mitsubishi is showing the new product at a 
time consumers are expressing interest in high-definition, flat-panel 

Industry statistics show that consumers in the United States are 
buying large display television at twice the pace they did three 
years ago. Mitsubishi executives said Americans were buying five 
million high-definition television units a year, urged on by 
increased high-definition programming, the move to high-definition 
video consoles from  Microsoft,  Sony and  Nintendo, and 
high-definition DVD players coming to market.

But unlike old technologies based on the cathode-ray tube, or C.R.T., 
which remained basically unchanged for decades, flat-panel television 
is continuing to evolve rapidly.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January,  Toshiba 
and Canon demonstrated their jointly developed S.E.D. 
(surface-conduction electron-emitter display) televisions, new 
flat-screen units that essentially combine the best of C.R.T. emitter 
technology with digital flat-panel technology. The two companies 
recently postponed their introduction until next year.

"It's a story of complexity," Ted Schadler, a  Forrester Research 
analyst, said of the dizzying array of choices prospective buyers 
face. He said there were more technologies, more shapes and sizes and 
more competing manufacturers' agendas.

While he said the S.E.D. and laser television technologies had 
"characteristics that are extremely interesting," he warned that 
consumers and retailers were going to have to do their homework as 
the flat-panel choices grew more complex.

"Television used to be very, very simple," he said. "You bought a big 
one or a small one that was black and white or color."

That has all changed, Mr. Schadler said. "Now we've got complexity 
like buying real estate or buying a car or something," he said. "It's 
just gotten tremendously complicated."
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