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TV research to double visible colours

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Swiss researchers are developing a colourful new technology that allows televisions to display every hue the human eye can detect.

The nano-technology research, underway at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (SFIT), aims to double the range of colours televisions can produce. Most of today's televisions can only display half of all visible colours.

Current TV and computer screens form images by mixing the colours of red, green and blue. "The process is very complicated. How we see the colour depends on the intensity of the light and the wavelength used," said John Sheridan of University College Dublin's department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. "We have mapped out how the human eye responds to colours. For example, males respond to fewer colours than females."

Several TV manufacturers have reportedly been working on expanding their colour palettes with Texas Instruments BrilliantColor technology, which adds cyan, magenta and yellow into the regular mix. This format is currently being used by Mitsubishi and Samsung in some of their TV sets.

Sheridan said the practical use to consumers of an increased colour base, such as that proposed by the SFTI, is limited: "The human eye doesn't see 10m colours. It doesn't process images the same way as a screen," he said. "If you're producing 1,000 frames per second the human eye isn't going to take it all in."

However, Sheridan said there are commercial benefits to the technology. "One of the big advantages with many of these more exotic television ideas is that they tend to work well with flatscreen technologies," he said. "This means they are cheaper to produce, more environmentally friendly, and tend to need less power."

Sheridan said consumers could also benefit from the colour developments at SFIT in the pre-purchase stage. "The production of a whole gamut of colours affects what can be done with the whole screen," he said. "It helps with the analysis of the whole package as it provides a single number that basically tells you that this is an advanced piece of technology."

SFIT estimates it could take up to eight years for the technology to appear in commercial products. Developments with other technologies in the meantime, such as 3D imaging, could affect the SFIT project.

"Better and better screens will allow for advancements in the field," said Sheridan. He added that the progress made so far in 3D imaging was encouraging. "I was at a conference in San Diego last week where they had a digital 3D cinema. At one point a snake came out of a screen and everyone in the audience nearly had a heart attack."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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