As Europe’s leading consumer electronics show IFA Berlin is not only the showcase for future trends in the home, but also the bellwether of emerging technologies for professional applications. AV News reports on the highlights of the show.
If there is one word that sums up IFA Berlin 2011 it has to be ‘smart’. Previous shows have pointed to the potential of the TV to become both the entertainment and communications centre of the home. This year’s event showed that the much discussed ‘battle for the living room’ has been decided conclusively in favour of the TV.
Now, all that consumers have to do is decide which flavour of TV.
But when we say “all consumers have to do”, the decision is going to be far more complicated than it ever used to be. Purchasing decisions for previous generations of TV have been made on the basis of form and function – in other words, is the TV big enough, thin enough and does it have a high enough resolution?
With the advent of smart TVs, the consumer has to consider the TV brands relationship with content providers when making a purchasing decision. There is the digital equivalent of a land rush going on right now as TV brands try to sign exclusive content, with recent examples including the TV output of Real Madrid and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Samsung, as the market leader, was most strident in stating its claims with Display Division president BK Yoon saying: “We want to be number one in TVs, number one in mobile devices and number one in content.” But what of the brands with lesser market shares? Philips announced that LG has joined the Dutch company and Sharp in a Smart TV based upon open standards such as HTML5, CE-HTML and HbbTV.
The alliance partners have introduced the first beta version of a common Software Development Kit (SDK) to allow content application developers to create a single application that can run on the Smart TV’s from Philips, LG and Sharp Aquos Net+. The SDK will be available at the beginning of Q4.
Smarter than smart
With the big brands focused on entertainment functions, it was left to newcomers to take the ‘TV as home hub’ concept to its logical conclusion. If the TV is to provide a central resource for entertainment, internet access and communication, why not heating, lighting and all the other aspects of a home control system?
Using a 3D interface on the TV, Haier’s smart home network gives consumers direct access to several sets of data and commands simultaneously. The My TV function provides connectivity between the Internet, the television and a range of electrical and electronic devices in the home. Users can monitor and control all the compatible devices (basically anything with digital feed) from the TV, transforming it into the main control centre for everything in the home.
Better still, Haier demonstrated advances in gesture control using hand and eye movements, using an integrated camera within the TV frame. But they didn’t stop there: the company showed a ‘sensory headset’ called Wave Brain. Haier claims that the technology uses electrical impulses from the brain to change channels. (If only that worked to send a ‘fetch me a beer’ message to the kids, it could be the ultimate TV solution.)
Also on the Haier booth was a 165 cm (65 inch) no-glasses 3D TV prototype. This LED backlit unit offered 4K resolution in 2D (QFHD 3840 x 2160) or 1K in 3D (HD 1360 x 760) and Haier’s 200Hz F2R (Fast Refresh Rate) technology. This creates eight 3D points of view at different angles of vision, enabling several viewers to experience the 3D effect.
But in this respect, the star of the show was undoubtedly on the Toshiba booth.
With the launch of Toshiba’s large screen glasses-free 3D TV at IFA last week, suddenly almost everything else on show looked dated. The new 55’’ ZL2 uses a combination of Toshiba’s CEVO processing platform, a nine segment active lenticular lens array, face tracking, Resolution+, Auto Calibration, 2D to 3D conversion, and Smart TV capability.
The ZL2 is the world’s first TV targeted at consumers to include a Quad Full HD display, offering up to 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution. Yes, there were more impressive 3D demonstrations with glasses and specially created content, but the Toshiba ZL2 heralds a new generation of home entertainment and professional applications.
The glasses-free 3D technology is based on the stereoscopic principle of simultaneously delivering a picture for the left eye, and another one with a small offset (parallax), for the right eye to achieve the 3D effect. To deliver a glasses-free 3D image a range of lenticular ‘lenslets’ guide the dedicated images to each viewer.
The ZL2 is said to provide 3D images for up to nine different viewing positions, enabling a number of people to enjoy simultaneous 3D viewing, with no glasses required. In addition, to tailor the viewing experience to the viewers’ actual positions in front of the TV, the 55ZL2 features face tracking technology. It is able to detect the viewers’ position and to adjust the viewing zones accordingly by moving the lenslets as required.
With the demands of 3D and visualisation driving resolutions up-and-up, IFA provided an opportunity to see what must surely be the ultimate.
Sharp staged the European premiere of the world’s first Super Hi-Vision capable LCD display. With about 33 million pixels (7680 x 4320) Super Hi-Vision displays will have 16 times higher resolution than today’s HDTVs. The prototype, which is still named 8K4K after its resolution, is a further development of the Sharp 4K2K display, which is already available as a system component delivering 8.8 million pixels (4096 x 2160), or four times the resolution of the HDTV standard.
The 8K4K is the world’s first monitor capable of displaying Super Hi-Vision, also known as Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV), which Sharp says is the TV format of tomorrow. The 8K4K is based on Sharp’s UV2A technology. This system uses a process by which the liquid crystals in LCD panels can be precisely positioned by means of UV light.
Precise alignment of the molecules in a given direction aids high dynamic contrast and an increase of more than 20% in aperture ratio. The increased contrast and higher aperture ratio result in extremely high picture quality, delivering, Sharp says, a unique viewing experience that is particularly vivid.
IFA this year was a largely quiet event for projector buyers. There was a bunch of new picos, including a couple of new embedded devices – including a neat Nikon stills camera with an embedded pico for photo sharing. TI showed a number of new models and it was apparent that the increased brightness of LED models lifts these devices out of the gadget category and into the genuinely useful basket/
The major exception to IFA’s ‘largely quiet’ sobriquet for front projection was the launch by Epson of its long-awaited, Full HD 3D projectors. Epson says that its luminance enhancement technology creates 3D content that is noticeably brighter than other Full HD 3D home cinema projectors. Also, by doubling the refresh rate from 240hz to 480hz, the blackout period between left and right eye images is said to be dramatically reduced.
Of the five projectors announced, the EH-TW9000 and EH-TW9000W are top-of-the-range models that offer 2,400 lumens and high contrast ratios of up to 200,000:1. The EH-TW5900, EH-TW6000 and EH-TW6000W are among the most affordable 3D 1080p home cinema projectors on the market2 and feature equally high White and Colour Light Outputs of up to 2,200 lumens and contrast ratios of up to 40,000:1.
“We have previously stated that Epson would hold back on developing 3D home cinema projectors until we were confident that there was a strong commitment from content providers for 3D material. With the projection that 27% of households will be 3D capable by 2015 and over 40 3D video game titles expected to be released this year, now is the time for Epson to release its 3D projectors and give viewers the ability to watch 3D content on the big screen,” says Madlyne Colson, product manager at Epson Europe.
“Our new projectors support a wide range of current 3D sources, ensuring there is a large catalogue of films and programmes available for viewers to watch, while remaining the best for home cinema projectors with superior image clarity and accurate colour reproduction. We are extremely excited about these new products and the experiences they will give Epson consumers,” added Colson.
The EH-TW5900, EH-TW6000, EH-TW6000W are available from October 2011 and the EH-TW9000 and EH-TW9000W are available from November 2011.