The Consumer Electronics Show felt a little short on big technology news this year, but one bright spot (pun intended) was displays. And the most interesting news of all was Texas Instruments' demonstration of DualView on displays that use its DLP projection technology. DualView puts two different full-screen video signals displayed on the same screen at the same time.There was plenty of display buzz. Network TV was all over Panasonic's 150-inch plasma display (though its broadband-over-powerline products were probably more important). The Surface coffee-table touch screen demos were a big draw in the Microsoft booth.
But DualView was the most interesting display technology on view. It effectively puts two video signals on the screen at once, and lets the user who's wearing special shutter glasses switch at will between them. This technology may save a few marriages -- with two receivers connected to the display, hubby can watch sports while wife watches chick flicks. It will undoubtedly be especially important to gamers, who will be able to run full-screen multiplayer games on a single display.
DualView technology is included in the TI's chipset for DLP HD TVs (it's used by manufacturers, including Samsung and Mitsubishi), but it's not quite ready for prime time. The hold-up is the glasses users must wear, which will be developed by third-party companies.
TI has been working hard to improve its DLP technology: it has taken advantage of the operating speed of its chips to do things like SmoothPicture, which in effect smooths out the frame-to-frame transitions. It has dramatically improved the contrast ratio and expanded the color space.
The company has promoted DLP for 3-D, in a sort of DLP double whammy -- the 120-Hz frame rate of the projector displays twice as many frames as standard 60-Hz displays, and the user wears DLP shutter glasses that sync with the projector to alternate between right and left eyes. The result is bright, flicker-free three-dimension viewing.
DualView uses the same capabilities, but instead of displaying alternate frames to each eye, it displays alternate frames to each viewer. Visually, the result is astonishing. A demo in the TI booth used prototype glassed to deliver, beautiful HD images of each program. If you looked at the screen without glasses, you saw a sort of ghostly composite, with the two images overlaid.
And A Tiny Projector, Too TI also was showing off another DLP projector technology at CES -- this one a tiny projector that could be built into a cell phone and used to project an image the size of a sheet of paper. This isn't exactly a new idea (a company called Microvision announced something similar 18 months ago), but this was the first time I'd seen anything up close and personal.
The unit I saw demoed was a mockup -- it was built into a cell phone-sized case, but there wasn't any cell phone hooked up to it. The image it projected was acceptable rather than dazzling (it was viewable but not extremely bright in a hotel ballroom environment, and holding your cell phone in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other is not an ideal projection system), but looking at photos or PowerPoint slides was still better than trying to see the same content on a cell phone display. And the TI person doing demo claimed it worked without chewing up the battery capacity overly much.
This is technology that is guaranteed to be a big deal in the video age we're entering.