InAVation is the name of the game

Part one of the monster InAVate ISE 2010 report contains all things display and projection related. Tune in next week for part two, on control, audio and our conclusions from the event.

I’d say that I’ve just about been around this market long enough now to call myself a hardened cynic. If not AV, then I’ve certainly been around publishing long enough.

This level of professional scepticism means that voice alarms start sounding in the editorial brain when words and phrases such as “innovative”, “world’s first” and “ground breaking” start appearing in publicity material surrounding a product or event. However, as we’ll see, some of the technology we were treated to at this year’s Integrated Systems Europe event justified some or all of those epithets.

If there’s one item that’s symbolic with the development of video technologies, it’s the once humble projector. We started out with the Camera Obscura in the 1400s before hitting the slide projector and now the LED powered projector.

The show this year saw several innovations, a world first and at least one product that could be described as “ground breaking”. LED driven projectors are not news any more, however their development continues to impress. Samsung announced what it reckons to be the brightest example yet at 1000 ANSI Lumens with its SP-F10M.

Casio has taken the concept and really run with it, developing what it calls the Green, Slim projector. This combines the LED colour elements with a fluorescent light source in a hybrid device which achieves greater brightness than a pure LED device (up to 3000 Lumens) whilst still benefiting from the extended life time of the technology. However, what’s really keen about the device is its price. Several other vendors I spoke to were scratching their heads about how Casio can offer the features it is, at the price it is.

Both Sanyo and Christie (more on them later) unveiled new 3LCD powered projectors and Epson’s new offerings were focused on the education space. With its latest ultra short-throw device, the EB-450Wi, offering interactivity on top of the standard feature set.

However, the real show stopper on the projection front was projectiondesign. Company had teased before the event about a “world’s first”, and it was certainly delivered.

Its remote light source device removes the entire lamp assembly from the projector chassis to a rack up to 30m away from the lens and DMD. The light is transmitted to the DMD via a liquid filled light pipe (essentially a giant optical fibre). The implications are profound – no moving parts at the projection head, freedom of orientation of the projection head, ease of replacement maintenance of the light engine should it be necessary. All of these things make installing projectors in obscure, difficult to reach spaces many times easier.

Whilst the company is aiming the product firmly at the simulation and control room market, it also drew admiring glances from a leading lighting designer from the staging market who I directed towards the booth.

However, projection was certainly not the only area of display technology to exhibit genuine signs of innovation. Christie’s much talked about (not least by me) MicroTiles made their European debut at a suitably well attended press launch, on a booth that made a pretty good job of showing off their potential. CTO Bob Rushby spoke engagingly about the product’s conception against a backdrop of the kind of high resolution, bright content that MicroTiles can deliver to audiences.

The one thing I was disappointed not to see was the interactive technology that was demonstrated at the New York launch event. This product has the potential to grab market very quickly. Christie is shipping where others are merely prototyping, but that won’t last for ever, or even very long.

Case in point was Prysm (née Spudnik). The company chose to demonstrate its Laser Phosphor Display product to a select few on a closed booth. I can fully see why they took this decision. In addition to obviously wanting to keep competitive eyes at bay, in a hall full of shiny LCD and plasma displays, the prototype could have looked less polished when compared to full production models. The product is by no means finished, so kudos to Prysm for having sufficient confidence in it to bring it to the show. What the company is clearly hoping is that those invited to take a look will be suitably impressed by its undoubted potential to invest in its future. I count myself amongst those who believe the product does have potential in areas where its low power demands and compact profile will be most useful.

I confess I was a bit puzzled by the choice to make a tiled wall. The company’s own literature explains that the panels can be made nearly any size, so why they chose something that couldn’t help but be compared to MicroTiles is beyond me. At the moment, in terms of image quality, it’s not a favourable comparison. LPD is very much a work in progress, and one we’ll be watching closely.

Displax were one of the surprise packages of the show, thanks to their interactive digital signage applications. Not only did the company pick up a digital signage award at the InAVation Awards, its interactive kiosks were well received by those who made the trip to the back of hall 11 to take a look. The only cloud on their horizon is a dispute over who owns the IP on the interactive film used. Reports on the web suggest it was in fact developed by another company, Visual Planet, whilst Displax make the control electronics.

Elsewhere in the display field Mitsubishi brought a number of its own innovations to the table. The OLED video wall first seen in Japan last autumn made it over the Europe and was painstakingly assembled and disassembled by its accompanying technical team. The third in a trinity of modular display systems demonstrated it was certainly the glossiest. Less power hungry than MicroTiles but more so than Prysm I’m really excited to see where the company takes this.

Mitsubishi also demonstrated the multi-touch capabilities now built into its rear projection cubes, whilst stressing that it was really up to integrators to make the most of this capacity via their own software. The laser-based touch technology means that it will cope well with high ambient light environments, and is also much more accurate and responsive than camera-style systems.

Planar mad e several key announcements including an interesting take on the LCD panel wall. The company has removed the image processing electronics from the back of the panel and placed it in a rack, along with the power supply. This makes installation cheaper, and maintenance easier, as well as considerably reducing the cooling load on the Clarity Matrix wall itself.

Barco, back after at year off, demonstrated the RLM-W6, which it has been dubbing the quietest 3-chip projector ever, and yes it’s pretty quiet. Just how quiet it is, is slightly hard to gauge in a crowded exhibition hall.

So, that concludes part one of our ISE 2010 coverage. The second part will be included on next week's thursday newsletter so please check back then to read my thoughts on some of the audio, control and video processing technologies we saw in Amsterdam.

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