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Organic LED TVs are here!

Bangalore, September 5 2016: Television display technology  has gone through five  generations in the last 30 years.  The fat Cathode Ray Tube-based  sets were  the only options when TV  became an all-India thing in the 1980s. 
At the turn of the century we  got the  first Plasma flat screens -- great to look at,  but very heavy and  power-guzzling. The LCD flat TVs which appeared around 2005,  were almost as good -- image-wise-- and also lighter to carry and lighter on the purse.  Then the industry coined another term: "LED TV"  which was only the LCD screen,   back-lit by a bank of light emitting diodes or LEDs.

Meanwhile  the geniuses who sell TVs,  confused us by throwing in acronyms like HD and  UHD  which were not new display technologies but only ways of defining how sharp the picture was,  in other words  high or ultra high definition.
The fifth generation of TV display technology has been around from 2013 -- but is  widely available only this year. It is called OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode.  OLED TVs  are different from the LED-lit LCD TVs in a basic way. While all of the pixels in an LCD TV screen  are illuminated by an LED back light,  each pixel in an OLED TV produces its  own illumination. OLEDS are organic because they are made from carbon and hydrogen.  OLED TV screens are   organic thin films sandwiched  between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. Because  they emit their own light, they do not require a backlight and  are therefore much thinner  than LED-LCD displays
We are already using OLED though we may not know it: Many recent smart phones -- OnePlus 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Oppo F1 Plus  and Asus ZenFone 3 --  all use OLED screens which make the phones thinner and lighter. One other property of OLEDS has been exploited by wearables like Asus ZenWatch and Samsung Gear --  they  can be made flexible.
Square cm  for cm, OLEDS  have been costly to fabricate  -- which is why not many TV makers  are making OLED sets. But one company -- LG -- which pioneered and promoted  the OLED TV  3 years ago, continues to put its money where its mouth is. 
At its India manufacturing plant in Ranjangaon, near Pune, it is  rolling out OLED TVs  in large formats -- 55 inch and 65 inch -- for domestic market as well as  for export.  Possibly because they own a lot of OLED  patents, LG is not too worried about the relative cost of large screen  OLED versus LED TVs. In fact it has married its OLED TVs to   two other technologies which promise to enhance the viewer experience:  High Dynamic Range  and Dolby Vision.  Both of them essentially   enhance how the screen displays a  wide range of light conditions  from full white to full black.  The new E6 series from LG (55 inch and 65 inch models are currently in production) combines  OLED, HDR and Dolby Vision  to create a smart ( ie Net connected)  Ultra HD  display that is about as far as large display technology   can go today.   Such  quality comes at a price.  Expect to pay between  Rs 2.5 lakhs to Rs 4 lakhs for  large format OLED TVs.
And what of the future?
While the OLED TVs  can be made extremely thin -- 4 mm typically -- they are still rigid. But the flexible nature of OLEDS has seen them tried out in many interesting situations:
PC screens that  can be wrapped around your arm; a patient's  case sheet that can be contoured to fit any part of the body,  foldable  refreshable newspapers  -- and even a TV that you can roll up like a map, have been previewed at consumer shows this year.
The tipping point  has come. Watch out for OLED applications that are limited only by imagination.  Today  you can book seats on commercial flights  to outer space stations -- when that happens. Me? I'm placing an order for 2 metres of TV.
Anand Parthasarathy

 

 

 




    


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