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The hottest trinket in the tech industry? A 120-foot video wall

April 4, 2013 | Telepresence Options


Story and Images by Andrew Nusca / ZDNet

Companies really have their own personalities, don't they?

Some are the popular jocks, some are quiet wallflowers, some are authority-defying punks and some are calculating geeks that are taking over the world while everyone dances the night away.

Every action at a company is supposed to impact the bottom line, sure. But companies are made of people, and people can be any number of adjectives: baffling, annoying, amusing, and so forth. Not everything is quantifiable.

And so there are, in truth, few ways for a company to justify a massive digital display. Sure, you can use them to collaborate. Or advertise. Or present to a large group of people. But let's be honest: these wonders of technology exist to impress. The emotion they elicit in observers is far more important than any single task they could accomplish.�

Bigger is better. Size matters. Rock out with your c...ahem, I beg your pardon.�(This is a family-friendly publication after all.)

The San Jose, Calif.-based company�Prysm�makes such displays. Their technology -- LPD, which stands for "laser phosphor display" -- allows for massive screen sizes that make the eyes of c-suite executives light up with delight. (Though to be fair, that might just be the reflected glow from the display.) How big? Let's just say that these displays are longer than my city house is wide.

In an era where the global corporation is king, and where board members debate�just how big�to make the logo that will be affixed to the shiny new corporate headquarters, the digital display is the next logical place where companies can signal market-dominating ambition.

I spoke with�Prysm CEO Amit Jain.

ZD: Tell me about the technology behind your displays.

AJ: Prysm has invented a new display platform: LPD, or laser phosphor display. It's for the consumer and business markets. We've been filing lots of patents on this -- over 60 issued, with another 250 filed. What LPD allows is a life-like, life-size display. It eliminates the limit size. CRT [displays] can go 34, 38 inches. Projectors can only go up to certain sizes. LCD [displays] go up to 70, 80 inches, and then you have to stack them together.

LPD allows for limitless sizes. One of the most important things is, how do you serve that wall with the power and cooling needed to run it? The technology reduces the power consumption tremendously -- five or 10 times lower than traditional technology. LEDs use 10 times the power, plasma uses nine times as much, LCDs use five times as much. And [with LPD] you don't need special HVAC to cool it off.

You can incorporate it in lobbies, training rooms, all of that. This experience before was not possible. You needed very special infrastructure to bring those walls together.

There are no toxic materials in the product. Even LCD has arsenic in the glass.

Most importantly, when you have large displays, it's about image quality and color. Image quality is phenomenal.�Your eyes won't get tired, unlike staring at a billboard. The gold standard for the human eye was and is CRT; you could watch all day and not get tired. Today's backlit devices push light out from the back and try to block it -- that's why you don't really get true black. It tires your eye over time. LEDs are worse -- those billboards, especially for indoor retail applications, are the worst. Each pixel is a lightbulb. In our case, the laser is absorbed by phosphor. True black is actually true black. It's emitting light uniformly, at any angle.

ZD: OK, so what I really want to know is where companies are using these displays -- and why.

AJ: Prysm video walls are being purchased by broadcast companies; retail spaces; public spaces like airports, casinos and hospitality; and stadiums. Also, control rooms and surveillance applications. We pretty much cover all broad applications of displays outside of the home.

Until now, when you visited to a major corporation, you saw projectors everywhere and LCDs stuck on the wall. Companies are looking for a much more immersive experience. If you look at any corporate building, there are video walls in lobbies, training rooms, customer demo centers, meeting rooms. A lot of these are used for presentation and collaboration. It integrates with touch [input] -- on the screen or via a touchpad, curved or flat.

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