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Displays Power Technology

Microsoft Engineers Invent Displays That Top LCDs For Efficiency 283

MechEMark writes with this excerpt from a hope-inspiring article at the IEEE Spectrum, which says "Researchers from Microsoft say they've built a prototype of a display screen using a technology that essentially mimics the optics in a telescope but at the scale of individual display pixels. The result is a display that is faster and more energy efficient than a liquid crystal display, or LCD, according to research reported yesterday in Nature Photonics ... The design greatly increases the amount of backlight that reaches the screen. The researchers were able to get about 36 percent of the backlight out of a pixel, more than three times as much light as an LCD can deliver. But Microsoft senior research engineer Michael Sinclair says that through design improvements, he expects that number to go up — theoretically, as high as 75 percent."
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Microsoft Engineers Invent Displays That Top LCDs For Efficiency

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  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @12:55AM (#24330389) Homepage Journal
    The only colour plane that works right now is blue.
  • OS Agnostic? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jasonmanley ( 921037 )
    Every time I hear about the great research that MS does I think about how great it is that they are putting their money into these IT projects. Then I stop and think "wait a minute, will this only work on Windows?"
    Well it seems obvious to me that a display technology should not be impacted by an OS but then my more synical nature takes over and asks if there is SOMEHOW a way that they could make this a Windows only thing.
    Well is it possible?
    • obviously (Score:5, Funny)

      by r00t ( 33219 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:50AM (#24330699) Journal

      I can even think of two ways to block Linux.

      If you can too, SHUT UP ABOUT IT!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by davester666 ( 731373 )

      Yes, it is possible for this to be a Microsoft-only technology.

      For example, they could just link it with their wacky 'Surface' [or whatever], so you have to buy the whole display/computer together, and since it'll be a proprietary, custom solution, sorry, but no Linux support. Or license it to companies making AllInOne computers [iMac knockoffs], but with the licensing restriction that Linux be prevented from running on it [what, more secret anti-competitive licensing terms].

      Hell, they could mandate that t

    • Re:OS Agnostic? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:13AM (#24330815)

      Who cares? Insofar as Microsoft is in the hardware business, they don't seem to discriminate except by providing only Windows and Mac driversâ"but everyone does that, so no biggie. Lots of people use their Intellimouse or their Microsoft Natural Keyboard on their pet OS. I don't see what Microsoft would gain by doing more work to discriminate: they'd just give people a reason to buy some other excellent monitor. It's more of an Apple thing to do, and even *their* displays work fine on any OS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tehcyder ( 746570 )

        It's more of an Apple thing to do, and even *their* displays work fine on any OS.

        Or you can just buy an LG at two thirds the price, spray paint it shiny white and bung one of your kid's fruit stickers on the front.

    • Probably they would rather sell it to everyone because they'd make more money. Also, there could be anti-trust implications of MS making displays that work only with Windows. And finally, if they did do that, it wouldn't be more than a week or two before some linux hackers got it working with their favorite OS.
      • Re:OS Agnostic? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:53AM (#24330993) Homepage Journal

        Actually, all they need to do is follow the DRM laden specs that high end monitors on HDMI are supposed to use in Vista - and lock the monitors in that mode.

        All Linux and other OS's need to do is enable DRM... MS isnt locking them out of anything... they arent implementing the right technology to use it, even though they "can" (or can't because the video card manufacturers wont release the specs needed to modify drivers under Linux).

        This would have the same effect, and put the blame at someone else's feet (ie: not Microsoft's).

        Note the sarcasm in the words... yet it is quite possible the truth will follow that path nonetheless... but it would be a stupid move. Especially with other technologies out there that would be competing against this.

        • Re:OS Agnostic? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ahnteis ( 746045 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @03:01AM (#24331027)

          You mean require HDCP? Why would they do that? So that suddenly 75% (guess) of their customer base couldn't use their choice of monitor? For what possible gain?

          HDCP is only required when you play blu-ray or hd-dvd discs. I suppose Microsoft could agree to require it on DRMed media -- but they've never even hinted that they would be stupid enough to require it for general purpose computing. What would be the point?!

          Honestly, this train of thought looks like the paranoid rantings of a delusional conspiracy theorist.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)


            The whole concept of DRM looks like the paranoid rantings of a delusional conspiracy theorist. Honestly, why would there be situations where I don't have the right to see a movie I bought?

            However, DRM exists and people begin to get used to it, sadly. If it can profit to Microsoft to lock their hardware to be only compatible with Windows, they'd do it, without looking back.

    • Re:OS Agnostic? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jorghis ( 1000092 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:30AM (#24330897)

      I think you are being paranoid. MS didnt do that with any of their other hardware. (joysticks/keyboards/mouse/etc) Really, is there any practical way to keep someone from plugging a monitor into a linux box?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RobertM1968 ( 951074 )

      Your quite valid point aside, here's another one to throw into the mix...

      Dont OLEDs obsolete this technology already? And I am pretty sure they get more than just blue out of an OLED display... :-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cheater512 ( 783349 )

        Yeah OLEDs are superior by nature. No backlight thus no efficiency problems.
        The light is generated on demand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jesus_666 ( 702802 )
      It comes from Microsoft Research so it isn't intended to ever be used anywhere.
  • OLED (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brain Damaged Bogan ( 1006835 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @12:59AM (#24330411)
    Aren't OLED displays already a lot more efficient?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anpheus ( 908711 )

      Yeah but they're a pain to manufacture still (still stuck to small form factors,) expensive for the number of square inches you get, hard to get really awesome brightness out of and then there's still problems with one of the colors (blue, I believe) fading much faster than the others.

      For that matter, aren't quantum dot based displays a lot more efficient? Well, yes. But.

  • OLEDs? SEDs? (Score:3, Informative)

    by renoX ( 11677 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:00AM (#24330419)

    OLEDs and SEDs have many advantages over LCD (the big disadvantage being that they're not mass-produced cheaply currently: OLEDs are produced but they're not cheap)..

    So I'm not very excited about a technology which only cuts the power consumption of LCDs..

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're not excited about an advance that can improve the type of monitors that we actually use? You must not get excited about display technology advances very often.

      Or is it that you don't get excited about advances in general unless they speak to any of the various orphaned technologies you have adopted, simply for the sake of safeguarding your delusion that your understanding of technology is wider and deeper when compared to other students of technology?

      I'm guessing it's a combination of the two.

    • Re:OLEDs? SEDs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nymz ( 905908 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:13AM (#24330497) Journal
      But notebook and PDA users might be exicited their batteries will be lasting longer.
      • Re:OLEDs? SEDs? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by renoX ( 11677 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @03:24AM (#24331121)

        Except that OLEDs and SEDs in theory also reduce the power consumption over normal LCD, as the pixels themselves emit light so there's no need of backlight.
        Sure SEDs and OLEDs are not really mass produced currently, but neither is this new technology for LCDs.

        And SEDs and OLEDs have many other advantage over LCDs: better refresh rate, contrast, viewing angle (reliability for SEDs).
        So this new LCD technology isn't very exciting..

        • by Nymz ( 905908 )
          If I were to bet, then I would feel safe betting that OLEDs would soon dominate the market in best looking display, thinnest display, and most expensive display.

          But my point here is that one shouldn't discount this new LCD technology, and place all of our eggs in a single OLED basket. I'm still not convinced of solutions to problems such as 1) the longevity of the organic elements, and 2) the ability to consistancy produce quality in quantity in order to get the price down.

          Side note: I wouldn't reccom
        • by donaldm ( 919619 )
          If this technology is going to have any chance of being successful then Microsoft should have a patent on it. I did a quick search and could not find one but then again finding a patent can be rather difficult considering the Lawyer speak you have to get your head around. I'm ok with a number (sort of obvious) but you have to know what it is to start with.

          At the moment OLED is a possible contender to LCD and Plasma screens however the cost of OLED screens is still much higher then LCD and it is still lim
  • contrast ratio: 20:1 (Score:3, Informative)

    by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:04AM (#24330433)

    And that's uselessly low.

    It's easy to make an LCD more efficient, just block less light. The problem is that the contrast ratio is the difference between the least amount of light you can block and the most you can block. They've just basically made a system that isn't capable of blocking much light and so it's brighter. But at the expense of the contrast ratio.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by amliebsch ( 724858 )
      Do you have a source for this number? It wasn't in the TFA that I could see.
    • by scrib ( 1277042 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:37AM (#24330631)
      Since you didn't include a reference, it took a bit of searching to find a good source [nature.com]. This source also has some good graphics about how the display works.

      "The first prototype's contrast ratio was 20:1, mainly due to the use of non-collimated back light. This was a limitation of the current prototype, not of the technology. This is supported by simulations ... which show that a ratio of at least 800:1 is possible."

      20:1 may not be particularly useful, but 800:1 is certainly usable, and modified with "at least" makes this a technology "at least" worthy watching for future development. It's not reasonable to judge a technology by its first prototype.
    • Contrast Ratio is probably the most misleading "specification" in the LCD universe.

      You go to shop for an LCD TV, and the major retailers put a few things on the tag: Size, Resolution, Refresh Rate, and Contrast Ratio.

      3 of these are measured in universally accepted ways. One is not. Can you guess which one?

      EVERY manufacturer measures contrast ratio differently. That's why you'll see, say, a Samsung LCD boasting its 20:000:1 contrast ratio, with, say, a Sharp right beside it at 800:1.

      Yet, the actual screens f

  • Microsoft's niche (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:13AM (#24330495) Homepage Journal

    I always said that Microsoft was pretty good as a hardware company.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm not so sure. Didn't they invent the F-lock key?
      • F-Lock? (Score:3, Informative)

        by PRMan ( 959735 )

        It's not that F-Lock is so bad, it's the fact that it is ON BY DEFAULT EVERY TIME YOU BOOT THE FRIGGIN PC that's the problem.

        The keyboard I'm on right now (a Logitech) has the F-Lock key and I never think about it because it remembers the setting between reboots.

    • I have no clue why. Dell/HP/Logitech mice, meh, they're essentially disposable -- I get a new one with every new computer because they're generally on their last legs by then. Persistent gunk issues, laser malfunctioning when running over certain colors, total hardware failure, button responsiveness drops, what have you.

      I got a Microsoft laser mouse for ~$50 back in, crikey, must have been about 2000. It isn't a gamer anything -- just two buttons and a wheel -- but that thing is an absolute tank. If its

    • by r_benchley ( 658776 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @05:57AM (#24331889)

      I always said that Microsoft was pretty good as a hardware company.

      My dead Xbox360 would respectfully disagree with you.

      • Yeah, I thought about that after I posted. Let me try again:

        I always said that Microsoft was pretty good as a peripherals company.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by iknowcss ( 937215 )
        My still-working Original Xbox would respectfully disagree with you :)

        See how stating anecdotal facts doesn't actually mean anything?
  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:14AM (#24330503) Homepage
    That's one reason it gets such good battery life. It uses the magic of diffraction gratings to use nearly all the light that it receives. I read that the creator of the screen is in the process of commercializing it, and I can't wait for it to get into the world of readily-available products.
    • A diffraction grating is not at all the same as a reflecting telescope. But how do the gratings help? I thought the problem was the polarization of light? Wouldn't the gratings be extremely narrow band filters?
    • That's one reason it gets such good battery life. It uses the magic of diffraction gratings...

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but the diffraction grating 'helps' by replacing the color filter. The color filter absorbs a portion of light, so when there is no color filter, then there is less light lost. Less light lost translates into less light you have to generate, and a power savings.

      I believe the OLPC screen [olpcnews.com] has 2 modes. Mode 1 is for backlit color like a normal screen, and mode 2 is for reflective black an

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )
      Wouldn't you prefer an OLED display though?
  • Not to be ignored... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:19AM (#24330529)

    ...is the faster switching speed. Considering this prototype has a ~1ms switching time, and LED backlights are already popular, it may be feasible to create, in effect, a flat panel DLP display by rapidly cycling the backlight color.

    Current flat panel displays have three sub-pixels in every pixel. One only allows red light, one blue, and one green. It's very inefficient: You need three LCD elements to display each pixel, and two-thirds of the backlight is blocked outright by the color filters.

    With a color-cycling display, every element displays every color in turn, so (all else being equal) you triple the resolution *and* the efficiency.

    The only downside is a possible rainbow effect if the display does not cycle colors quickly enough.

  • by kmac06 ( 608921 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:20AM (#24330531)
    I guess I'm looking at this from a different point of view from most of the comments so far. I read the article, and I'm thinking "Wow! What a cool new way of attacking an old problem!" It's a brand new technology, I don't expect it to be immediately better than decades old technology overnight. I just like the new technique and the micro-scale optics. Then again, I am studying optics in graduate school so I might be a bit biased...
  • Sounds like the same concept can be applied to OLED screens. Quick create a company in eastern texas and patent it!
  • That means that Microsoft has, for the very first time, invented something useful.

    No, please, I'm dead serious about this !

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:32AM (#24330909)

    ... quickly bash them, before they do anything good.

  • Viewable angle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @03:04AM (#24331045)

    If this really works like a telescope, then wouldn't that mean the display would have a very low viewable angle? After all, a telescope is just a telephoto lens. And telephoto lenses have a narrow field-of-view.

    So, you'd probably have to look directly at the display from a perpendicular angle. Move a little to the side, and you're going to lose the image altogether, or have it severely degraded. LCDs are already bad enough in this respect.

    • by Arimus ( 198136 )

      Actually low-viewing angle screens can be useful...

      Everywhere: prevents shoulder surfing....

      Work: prevents the boss knowing you are now on the 200th round of solitare...

    • So, you'd probably

      I like how you asked a question, then used your presumed answer as the premise for a critique.

      All the while, not knowing a damn thing about the actual truth of the matter.

      But maybe you missed these 2 words in the summary: "essentially mimics."

      All I'm saying is, why pass off some half-baked premise as truth when you really have absolutely no clue?

  • I'm still waiting for a decent resolution full color display that doesn't require a backlight at all, but is instead illuminated by front lighting just like other objects that don't emit their own light.
  • Do you really want over a million Microsoft-constructed telescopes pointing at you while you *ahem* surf the web?

  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @04:27AM (#24331439) Journal

    Red Colour Hue on MVLB Displays

    Some users have noticed a slight rosy color hue on their new Microsoft(TM) MVLB (MakeVistaLookBetter) displays. This is a design feature, but users who have downgraded their computer systems to vastly inferior Operating Systems (Windows XP or Lin.. [MSKb Editor: REMOVED - Mention that and you're sacked]) may wish to obtain MVLB Service Pack 1 to re-balance the colors to a more natural 'look-and-feel'.

    Article ID : 45888372
    Last Review : July 25, 2008
    Revision : 1.0

    You look at your MVLB display and the world seems rosy.

    MVLB display optics have been chromatically adjusted to emphasise the red end of the color spectrum to enhance the user experience with Windows(TM) Vista.

    Users can obtain MVLB Service Pack 1, which comprises 3932160 (1280x1024x3) colour-corrected nano-dots. Using the supplied grid alignment device (ruler) and tweezers, one dot should be carefully applied to the surface of the MVLB immediately above each pixel. Note that each nano-dot is color-balanced for a specific pixel color (red, green and blue) and so must be applied above the correct display pixel - each nano-dot has an identifying letter ('R', 'G' and 'B') stamped on its edge. Users will require a tube of superglue and possibly a scanning electron microscope.

    NOTE: Do not sneeze whilst applying the nano-dots.

    MVLB V1.0 displays

    KEYWORDS: MVLB, rosy, tinted, Vista

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @05:19AM (#24331719) Homepage

    Something that was invented 20 years ago. I wonder if Texas Instruments have their lawyers on standby...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DLP [wikipedia.org]

    • It's like DLP in the sense that it uses mirrors to reflect light.

      If that's your definition of "similar" then TI ought to ramp-up their legal team because they've got a lot of patent enforcement work ahead of them.

      The real difference is that DLP is a digital technology. This is, effectively, analog.

  • Filling efficiency (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zombie_monkey ( 1036404 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @05:27AM (#24331767)
    From TFA in Nature (here [nature.com]):

    Pixels are placed next to each other so that the maximum possible fill factor of 78% is achieved. [...]

    The maximum transmission of a single pixel in the on state can be derived from the fact that the secondary mirror has a diameter equal to half that of the primary mirror and blocks 25% of the backlight. Thus, 75% of the backlight will reach the primary mirror. Simulations indicate that 95% of the light from the primary mirror can reach the pixel's output. In the experiment it was measured to be 61%, which can be further optimized.

    The total amount of backlight that can be transmitted by a telescopic pixel display based on the experiment is pi/4 times 0.75 times 61% approximately 36%, and simulations show that up to 56% is possible. The current experimental value is 3.5-7 times greater than that of LCDs, and therefore for the same backlight intensity, the telescopic pixel is 3.5-7 times brighter.

    That pi/4 (78.5%) filling density comes from the fact that the circle-shaped pixels are aranged in a square grid, if they arrange them in a hexagonal grid, they would achieve efficiency of pi/(2*sqrt(3)) - 90.7%.

  • by asc99c ( 938635 ) on Friday July 25, 2008 @06:24AM (#24331959)

    I'm not joking here, I'm genuinely confused.

    Why is it that Microsoft is actually a pretty good hardware company? All their peripherals are pretty good. Xbox has a few issues but it's really a one off.

    Intel on the other hand is just about the worlds best software company. I spent a lot of time at university working with intel developer tools and libraries without ever encountering a single issue.

  • Polo mints. I wonder what they did with the holes?

  • Go Team USA! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @07:33AM (#24332375) Homepage Journal

    The one thing that I really do like about the closed model is that Apple and Microsoft seem to be the only two American companies capable of actually taking on foreign competition in their core competencies and winning.

    They are just kicking the shit out of Sony and as guy who watched RCA flounder and go down for an answer to the Walkman every iPod and xBox 360 sold just gives me great delight. And now, the even possibility of Microsoft taking back at least the design of electronic screens back from asian manufacturers is pretty damned sweet.

    You all may hate Microsoft and Apple and love Linux, but is there any doubt that if Ford and GM were as adeptly run as Microsoft and Apple were, American car companies wouldn't be caught building giant trucks -again- and then take seemingly 5 years to turn around.

  • Wait, you mean Microsoft does something besides create fodder for anti-Microsoft discussions here? Aaaah! (all of Slashdot implodes)

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan