Ongoing innovation in the display space is creating opportunities for new TV technologies that may actually stick around.
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Quite a few TV display technologies are available these days, each with unique features and characteristics (see “What’s the Difference Between TV-Display Technologies?”). The Society for Information Display (SID) addresses this space and runs the annual Display Week exhibition (see figure).
SID’s members have a challenging market space. More than two-thirds of TV screens now on the market exceed 40 inches in size. Consumers are being selective about what new purchases to make as unit growth is still slow. Part of this may be due to the variety of options available.
Yong-Seog Kim is President of the Society for Information Display. He was kind enough to host this online round table that includes Dr. Mike Hack, Vice President, Universal Display Corp.; Eric Li, CEO and President, SiliconCore Technology; and Jeff Yurek, Corporate Marketing Director, Nanosys Inc.
Kim: How do you perceive the state of the display industry, with respect to both the TV market and technology?
Yurek: It’s an exciting time for TV displays. We are just beginning a transition to Ultra HD (UHD), which is the biggest quality improvement consumers have seen since the switch to HD around 20 years ago. The UHD format is actually a whole suite of new features, including 4K resolution [3840 x 2160 pixels], high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut, and high frame rate (HFR). With this new format, we now have a way to deliver content to consumers’ homes that has a wider range of expression than even the very best analog-format movie. This means we can deliver a truly cinematic experience to the home.
As an industry, we’re only just beginning to explore the potential of UHD. Today’s best UHD sets look amazing, but they can typically only re-create 10% of the allowable HDR data contained in the content. The goal is to get to 100%, with sets that can deliver full BT.2020 color at up to 10,000 nits peak luminance. There’s a lot more work to do to get there, and this has really given TV makers a license to push the envelope, exploring new technologies like quantum dots that will enable them to deliver on the promise of the full UltraHD experience over the next few years.
Kim: Given the current slow-to-flat growth in TV purchases, what do you think consumers are telling the industry?
Li: As you say, the market is currently saturated, and margins are pretty low. Consumers want innovation. What will attract people to pay a premium instead of continuing to lower their spending? For one, you need an immersive (i.e., large and curved) screen with HDR—it needs to be able to accommodate both very high and very low brightness, with excellent uniformity regardless of brightness level.
People also want a screen with a fast response rate, especially for virtual-reality (VR) applications, and now there are opportunities for 3D. The reason 3D didn’t take hold before was that it was too small. With an immersive screen, either active or passive 3D will make it more appealing and closer to realistic VR. This would make the display industry exciting again.
Yurek: While it’s true that the overall TV market is growing slowly, when you look at UHD, it’s a completely different story. UHD sets will account for about 40% of the TV display area shipped this year. If you look back to 2013, UHD represented just 2% of the market by area—that’s a lot of growth in a short period! The message we’re getting from consumers is that they are really excited about UHD. You can immediately see the difference, and consumers are buying in.
Kim: What technologies have the potential to drive customers to replace their existing TVs?
Hack: We believe technologies that offer enhanced viewing experiences , such as organic LEDs (OLEDs), will have the potential to drive consumers to replace existing TVs. First, OLEDs offer the ultimate visual image quality. As they are emissive displays, they offer almost infinite contrast ratios, with the deepest blacks of any display, at the lowest power consumption. The fast response times of OLED devices result in much less image blur than liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) for watching fast-moving videos, such as sporting events. As color is determined by the particular choice of emitters used in the emissive layer, we can select the overall color gamut and achieve very high picture quality.
In addition to excellent visual performance, OLEDs offer an extremely attractive form factor. Displays can be transparent for signage applications, and can be extremely thin, curved, and flexible. And with the ability to manufacture OLEDs on plastic, displays can be rollable, bendable, and foldable, so they offer highly desirable shapes and sizes to be easily incorporated into a variety of everyday objects and spaces.
Li: Many aspects of displays require innovation and are not quite available today from the LCD and OLED worlds. For example, both are limited to fixed screen sizes. The screen may be curved, but the size is small, color is limited, and response rate is slow. For a truly immersive experience, you need a huge display that will attract people to new applications.
We will enable this through our SiliconCore SSD (solid-state display) approach, which builds on LEDs’ nanosecond-range response time—better than any other display technology—to offer the highest dynamic range. For technologies such as OLED and LCD, 12-bit HDR is the maximum they can drive. For SiliconCore SSD, 16 bits is the minimum, and we can go up to 20 bits—this equates to a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio versus 4,000:1 for 12-bit HDR. This is a key differentiator that will allow our SSDs to produce a highly realistic image—even a 2D screen can give a 3D-type feeling with such high contrast and dynamic range levels. When consumers see what the technology can do, it will be a major selling point for convincing them to invest.
Yurek: UHD with HDR is highly compelling. We see quantum dots as the key enabling technology for UHD. Quantum-dot TVs deliver a better experience with more of the features that consumers care most about, like high peak luminance and wide color gamut, at a much lower cost than the alternatives. This is because quantum-dot technology is able to leverage all of the existing LCD capex—more than $180 billion—without requiring any changes to the manufacturing process. This makes it very easy to deploy at mainstream scale, so we see quantum dots playing a significant role in UHD TV as the market takes off.