Slow-mo Footage Reveals the Unique Way Plasma TVs Displayed a Single Frame of Video

As fun as it is to watch things go boom in slow motion, high-speed cameras are more useful as educational and research tools, revealing phenomena that are otherwise imperceptible to the naked human eye, like the weird way old plasma TVs would display a single frame of video by flashing various parts of the image in multiple passes.

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This isn’t the first time The Slow Mo Guys have pointed their high-speed cameras at a TV screen. In a video from 2018, they compared how modern LCD and OLED TVs display video—drawing images from the top of a screen to the bottom—to how old CRTs would generate each frame by drawing images line-by-line and pixel-by-pixel while relying on human persistence of vision to create a full image in our minds.

Somewhere between those technologies, we got TVs featuring plasma display panels which offered a lot of the same benefits that modern OLED screens do over LCDs. The on-screen pixels were made up of tiny cells filled with an ionized gas that self-illuminated when electricity was applied. As a result, plasma TVs didn’t need backlights nor suffer from issues like light leak, resulting in excellent contrast ratios and black levels that were darker than LCD TVs could muster. But plasma TVs actually worked a lot differently when generating images than LCDs, OLEDs, and even CRTs do, as The Slow Mo Guys discovered in their latest video that uses high-speed photography to reveal how 3D TVs functioned.

Instead of turning on every self-emissive pixel at the same time—which would be blinding—plasma display panels would instead illuminate different areas of the screen in fast pulses, up to 10 times for each frame, to quickly build up what the human brain would perceive as a single solid image. In the case of the plasma TV The Slow Mo Guys photographed, it was marketed as a 480Hz display which meant that while it actually operated at 60Hz, every frame generated was made up of eight shorter pulses.

Unlike with an LCD or OLED TV, at no point does slow-mo footage of a plasma display reveal an entire frame, but it’s the only way to see how this unique technology actually worked. As much as home theater enthusiasts loved plasma TVs, which were some of the first big-screen flat sets available, they’re a technology that’s no longer available thanks to improvements in LCD TVs, but mostly because OLED screens offer the same benefits with less power usage, slimmer profiles, and lighter sets that are much easier to hang on a wall.

One of Braun’s First Digital Alarm Clocks Is Back With Wireless Charging Powers

Millions of words have been devoted to Dieter Rams’ iconic hardware designs, but nothing stands as a testament to the timeliness of his creations like a 45-year-old digital alarm clock being resurrected and updated to give your smartphone a functional and stylish place to rest and recharge overnight.

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The Braun DN40 wasn’t the first digital alarm clock, but it was arguably the first that didn’t look like a technological relic by today’s standards. Its sleek and simple design, a hallmark of Braun’s products, angled the LCD display slightly back, while the buttons on the back used to set the time and alarm all feature distinct shapes so they can be operated without actually having to look at them. Features that should have been standardized on all bedside alarm clocks.

For a while, smartphones meant that bedside alarm clocks were an antiquated and redundant concept, freeing up space on our bedside tables. But then the ‘convenience’ of wireless charging arrived, and we once again had to make room for a big chunk of electronics to plop our phones on at night. That’s where the Braun BC21 enters the picture.

Inspired by the classic DN40, the BC21 features a similarly slanted LCD display on the front (updated with a light sensor that automatically dims or brightens the glowing digits so they’re always easy on the eyes), a beeping alarm that gradually gets louder the longer you ignore it, and a touch-sensitive snooze button on the top that requires minimal effort to activate.

Behind the display is a 10-watt Qi-compatible wireless charging pad covered in non-slip silicone so that whatever you place on it before bed—be it a smartphone, earbuds, or headphones—are still there and fully charged in the morning no matter how much stuff you knock over during a night of fitful sleep. The only downside to Dieter Ram’s legacy is that not only are classic Braun electronics hard to find and pricey when you do, but modern Braun electronics aren’t exactly cheap either, and the BC21 is a hefty $130—even more expensive than the overpriced Apple MagSafe Duo Charger.

Researchers Created a High-Contrast Transparent Screen That Might Make You Want to Wear Smart Glasses

Gif: Jilin University

Researchers at Jilin University in Changchun, China, have come up with a method for making transparent displays that look as good as the screens on our mobile devices, with color reproduction and contrast levels that could soon have us permanently ditching smartphones and tablets for smart glasses.

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Transparent displays are far from a new idea. Science fiction has been presenting us with see-through smartphones and vibrant mixed-reality headsets for years. It’s hard not to lust after the mobile devices Tony Stark gets to play with, but while the technology exists in real life, it’s mostly used for novelty or advertising purposes. Companies like LG sell transparent OLED displays for use as signage, but not as a replacement for your living room TV. Non-emissive see-through screens don’t generate their own light, but instead rely on ambient light passing through or bouncing off the display, and don’t have the same contrast levels, viewing angles, and color reproduction capabilities as LCDs or OLEDs.

Anyone who had a chance to use Google Glass while it was available to consumers knows the limitations of transparent displays, but while image quality lacks, the technology is crucial for creating smart glasses, which many assume will one day supplant smartphones.

There’s little doubt that deep in the R&D labs of giant corporations like LG and Samsung, researchers are trying to find ways to improve transparent OLEDs, but the Chinese researchers at Jilin University may have beaten them to the punch. In a paper published in the journal Chem today, the team details a new approach to electrochromic displays that change color and opacity by manipulating the properties of light when a voltage is applied.

A prototype was created by essentially building a glass sandwich with a pair of clear panels that were injected with a material made from “metal salts, dyes, electrolytes, and solvent” in addition to electrodes, with the whole thing held together using an adhesive that doubled as a spacer. When a voltage is applied, the metal ions and molecules in the filler form new bonds and structures that essentially cause the dyes to switch on and off. As different dyes are activated and mixed, the researchers found that colors including cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, pink, purple, and gray could be produced. The display could easily shift from fully transparent to black with a high contrast ratio, which is crucial for displaying legible text.

The new non-emissive screen technology is also relatively low-cost and easy to manufacture, further increasing its chances of replacing LCDs and OLEDs in applications like smart glasses, but first the researchers are hoping to optimize its performance. It can shift from transparent to displaying text or imagery in less than a second, but that’s not quite fast enough to match the performance of screens used on smartphones or wearables. It’s going to need to be able to switch states at at least 30 times every second before the technology is practical enough to replace what we’re using now. No one’s going to want a pair of smart glasses if they can’t secretly watch YouTube videos while they look like they’re paying attention to a meeting or class.

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It’s No Surprise This Absolutely Obscene 7-Screen Laptop Has 1-Hour Battery Life

The Aurora 7 laptop seems lifted straight from the imagination of a Hollywood prop builder working on a bad hacker flick. But with seven foldout screens, there’s little chance anyone could actually use this beast on their laps. It’s a mobile transforming workstation for those who need more screen real estate than they have room for monitors.

Created by a UK company called Expanscape, the Aurora 7 is very much just a prototype at this stage in the game (as is evident by the extensive use of 3D-printed parts), but it’s designed to be true mobile workstation for everyone from developers to content creators to even well-funded gamers wanting a more immersive experience from a computer they don’t have to leave at home.

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Powered by an Intel i9 9900K processor backed by 64GB of DDR4 RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 1060 series graphics card, the Aurora 7 also comes with 2TB of hard drive storage and an additional 2.5 TB of SSD storage, plus all the ports you could ever need to expand its capacity even further. But the star of the show is the complicated mosaic of screens which includes four 17.3-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) LCDs—two in portrait mode and two in landscape—as well as three smaller 7-inch screens all pushing 1920 x 1200 pixels, with one located in the laptop’s wrist rest.

Possibly even more impressive is that all those screens are engineered to fold up onto themselves to create a flat profile that can be carried in a bag—albeit a bag large enough to stash a 4.3-inch-thick laptop that weighs in at a hefty 26 pounds. The Aurora 7’s creators are hoping to trim its weight to a lean 22 pounds when all is said and done, but this is not a laptop you want to haul to the office and back every day. This is a machine you’ll want to build a custom wheeled cart for.

Although the Aurora 7 only exists in prototype form right now, Expanscape is still offering to sell its creations to consumers demanding more pixels than have ever been shoe-horned onto a laptop before. But not only is the company not making pricing info public, it’s also requiring interested buyers to sign an NDA promising to keep mum on how much money they actually paid for their one-of-a-kind mobile workstation. In general, prototypes always cost more than a consumer-ready version of a gadget given the time and money that has to go into creating individual parts. Making them by the thousands on a production line significantly reduces costs, but don’t get your hopes up for the Aurora 7 being anything close to reasonably priced if and when it is made available to the public.

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