Behind the Curtain with Prysm at ISE

  • by David Keene
  • This week saw the debut of Prysm’s new LPD display technology at the ISE show in Amsterdam (Feb. 2-4), in technology demonstrations that both introduced the platform to the industry, and served as one of Prysm’s last testings of the marketing waters as they ready the pricing structure (not announced this week) for the product launch in March.
  • In private demos of the technology on site this week in Amsterdam with Prysm creators Roger Hajjar, Chief Technology Officer, and Amit Jain, President and CEO, I got a close-up look at a display platform whose key selling point is its energy efficiency, but that features several firsts in the industry.
  • Amit Jain, President and CEO of San Jose, California-based Prysm, and one of the founders of the company, walked me through the components and processes behind the display in the booth. In the booth was a 142 inch diagonal wall in a 6x5 configuration (30 separate panels, or tiles, each unit/tile with its own laser light engine). The resolution of the panels was 1.6mm, and it featured 1000 NIT brightness. Depth of units: 1:10 ratio (depth: screen size diagonally). As this was a technology demo, and not a formal product demo, specs are still evolving. Prysm says they will have other models, with various resolutions and brightness levels to choose from, by InfoComm.
  • LPD displays are based on a laser-scanning, emissive display panel technology that features very low power consumption. The technology really combines elements from three disciplines:

• New generation disc drives, specifically the blue laser technology as used in BluRay (the blue laser “writes” to the screen like the blue laser of a BluRay player)

• Photocopiers. The “lens” in particular. This is not a projection lens, it is more like a photocopier scanning lens, and unlike a projector lens, it transmits data (laser beams) in both directions. So the lens/laser light engine can both read and write data.

• Phosphor elements of a screen, similar to a CRT screen. The phosphor screen is a patterned (or printed) array of phosphors layered in a rigid and stable structure made of glass or polymer. Essentially, this is a RGB process, an “emissive” display technology like CRT, and Plasma (and with the associated processing speed advantage of all those emissive display technologies over LCD whose transmissive panels require a bit more time to literally “turn” the organic molecules inside the liquid crystal substrate. This speed advantage is irrelevant for the vast majority of imaging needs– but specs are specs, and this evolution of processing speed is important. Even Joe Sixpack, shopping at Best Buy, has heard about 240Hz processing).

To get all these elements to work together for LPD required technology evolution propelled by the BluRay (new-generation blue lasers whose tighter wavelength enables more precise “writing” of data, and of course the inexorable economies of scale for blue lasers afforded by the mass-market BluRay production); the ability to power lasers on and off rapidly enough to create dynamic images at a processing speed necessary to compete with LED, DLP, LCD, and all the big boys; and the ability to not just “write” images with lasers but to fully align the laser beams with each pixel of the phosphor screen permanently.

This last point is crucial. Amit Jain explained. “Key to the design, key to making this a robust technology, is being able to key the laser to the phosphors, with an ‘active’ scanning scheme (as opposed to the passive scanning technology of a CRT television). No one to date has been able to ensure that the laser beam would line up with the right pixel, without large screen sizes getting out of alignment down the road. We do this by being able to receive data back from the laser scan, from the pixel, so that it’s a kind of micro ‘GPS’ if you will that keeps the laser constantly aligned with each pixel.”

But at the heart of the go-to-market message of this platform is energy efficiency. And this is manifest, according to Prysm, in two ways: Low power consumption of the unit, period. And a much cooler running temperature than LED or LCD, and so a big reduction in air conditioning needs. Typically with high brightness displays, every watt of generated heat, needs three watts of AC. But Prysm claims their technology generally needs lsittle or no AC. And both features together, according to Prysm, result in 6-10 times lower power consumption than LED.

One of the key elements of the technology demo in the Prysm booth at ISE, was a small LED digital readout on a little wall panel off to the side of the 142 inch diagonal wall. This watt usage meter showed realtime watt usage of the display wall… and while the amount consumed was low, more impressive was that the watt usage of the display varied according to what content was on the screen. Darker images on the screen needed less power to the unit to display. This bears repeating: with LPD, power consumption is content-dependent. (Unlike in other display technologies, where average power consumption = peak power consumption.)

Stay tuned for InfoComm in Las Vegas in June for more details on this new display platform. And, according to Prysm, pricing is being set now (under the seasoned guidance of Prysm’s Dana Corey and Steve Scorse, for the first March spec sheet rollout.