Sony has demonstrated for the first time a projection display system based on its Silicon Crystal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology that is capable of delivering a picture with double the resolution of high-definition television.
A prototype projector based on a new SXRD display was shown at Sony's facility in Tokyo, last week.
Sony was planning to take the system to the US this week where it would be demonstrated in Hollywood, president of Sony's TV group, Makoto Kogure, said.
SXRD is a development on liquid crystal display (LCD) technology and was developed by Sony for use in projectors. It features pixels that are much smaller and more densely packed than in a conventional panel to allow very high resolution in a small size. The technology was first announced in early 2003 and a first-generation panel suitable for HDTV is already in production. The prototype cinema projector shown on Friday uses a new panel which has yet to enter commercial production and has double the resolution of the original panel.
Sony's initial target for the new display is in commercial digital cinema projectors.
The system met the requirements of the Digital Cinema Initiative, senior general manager of Sony's professional solutions network company unit, Shigeru Morikawa, said.
DCI is a consortium of seven movie studios including MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. The group is researching digital cinema systems that could see flawless duplicates of movies distributed electronically to theaters for display through high-resolution systems such as that demonstrated by Sony.
Development of a digital cinema system capable of a picture superior to high-definition TV is seen as an important part of the movie theatre industry's attempt to keep customers coming to their theaters in the age of home theatre.
In 2003, total worldwide shipments of home theatrer projectors was estimated to be 135,000 units, according to IDC. The market is expected to see double-digit percentage growth for each of the next four years and grow to 856,000 units in 2007, the company said in a report released in November.
Sony is one of several companies trying to grab a slice of the home-theatre market and a first-generation version of the SXRD panel technology is inside the company's most expensive home-use projector, the Qualia 004.
That panel was capable of delivering a resolution of 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels, which matched a 16:9 aspect ratio high-definition TV picture, and Sony had back-orders for 200 of the projectors, which had a $US30,000 price tag, Kogure said.
One of the hurdles that Sony has faced in developing its SXRD technology is packing the pixels close together.
In the first generation panel the pixel density was increased by 2.4 times and pixel spacing decreased by 10 times over a conventional PolySilicon LCD panel so that 2 million pixels were packed into a display measuring 1.9cm across. In the new panel, pixel spacing has been further decreased by 10 per cent so that more than 8 million pixels are in a panel measuring 3.9cm across.
Commercial production of the new panels is expected to begin before the end of this year at two Sony plants on the westernmost Japanese island of Kyushu. Wafer production will be done in Kokubu and panel assembly handled in nearby Kumamoto, said the company.
Sony did not plan on selling the panel to other companies and would keep it for use in its own products, Kogure said.
While the initial displays would be targeted at commercial projectors for movie theaters, Kogure did not rule out their appearance in products for consumers at some point in the future.
Sony's biggest competitor in the high-definition projection display space at present is the DLP (digital light processing) technology developed by Texas Instruments. The company has produced a range of DLP displays for use in products in both the consumer and commercial sector and recently said it had shipped its 3 millionth display.
Both TI and Sony plan to exhibit their technologies at the InfoComm show that is scheduled to be held in Atlanta from June 9-11.