Insider’s Look at Future Home Technology
We peek behind the tech curtain and find LCD TVs with 10,000:1 contrast ratios, flat-panel successors to CRT, Blu-ray recorders and much more.
Sharp LCD TV
Sharp says its LCD TV with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio may reach the U.S. by 2008.
October 20, 2006 by Rebecca Day

If you want to get a good idea of what’s coming down the pike in electronics, the CEATEC show outside of Tokyo is a good place to be. Held in Chiba, Japan, the first week of October, CEATEC is a bustling trade and consumer show brimming with tech gadgets that may, or may not, find their way to the States.

So what’s on the menu for CE enthusiasts over the next few years? How about an LCD TV with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio? That’s what Sharp Electronics boasts, possibly for introduction in the U.S. as early as 2008. Current LCD TVs max out at a 1,500:1 contrast ratio with 3,000:1 slotted for 2007. For those who dream really big, Sharp also showed a 65-inch LCD TV with a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, a broadcast-studio-grade reference monitor that will be targeted to TV stations.

Sharp also demoed a prototype of an English-Japanese translator, a pocket-sized device designed to translate key travel phrases between languages. Users speak the phrase they want to translate to the device and voice-recognition software from IBM translates the spoken word to written Japanese and English on a large LCD. The software also converts Japanese into spoken English (one-way only) which plays through built-in speakers. Sharp officials said the device would be in stores in Japan in the fourth quarter. No availability was announced for a U.S. version (which we sorely needed while traveling).

Video enthusiasts who have been waiting for SED technology (Surface Conduction Electron Emitter Display) will have to wait a bit longer. Toshiba previewed a prototype of the fledgling technology, which the company co-developed with Canon, but no production announcements have been made for the U.S. or Japan. SED has been billed by the two companies as the flat-panel successor to CRT, using a similar approach to excite phosphors that illuminate to create an image on screen.

After several years in development, though, SED has yet to appear while plasma and LCD are well past the starting gate. At CEATEC, Toshiba demonstrated a 55-inch 1080p SED model that could ship to the Japan market in Q4 2007, according to Toshiba execs. The display boasted a 50,000:1 contrast ratio. No plans have been set for the U.S. market. It’s not likely an SED TV will appear stateside before 2008.

Toshiba also showed an HD-DVD writer for its laptop PC. The multi-tasking recorder burns to HD-DVD, standard DVD and CD-ROM discs.

Several manufacturers showed Blu-ray Disc recorders but the products aren’t destined for U.S. shores any time soon due to differences in cultural recording habits. U.S. consumers record to DVRs, but Japanese consumers prefer recording to disc, according to a Toshiba official. Toshiba showed a Blu-ray Disc recorder and Panasonic and Sony announced recorders for the Japanese market. Hitachi showed a mockup of a Blu-ray camcorder but no product plans were released.

Panasonic displayed a working model of an HD camcorder that records 40 minutes of HD video on a 4GB SD card. The camcorder is due in the U.S. next spring. Just how much does a 4GB SD card run you? From $170 and up in the U.S.

At the Pioneer booth, a next-generation “reference” plasma display wowed CEATEC show goers with a contrast ratio of 20,000:1. No delivery schedule was provided for U.S. or Japan markets.

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