Friday, November 18, 2005

Digital Cinema – Bringing Nanotechnology to a Theatre Near You

Nanotechnology and its related innovations may seem to be relegated to the abstract sections of Scientific American and futuristic publications, but some of the technologies are making their way into more commonplace uses. One area you may have heard about is digital cinema.

TI currently owns the digital cinema market (with about 120 installations) but Kodak appears to be challenging them. This article discusses how the technology will be applied to pre-show advertisements. With a digital system, theatre owners would be able to download new shows through a satellite link rather than sending cans of film back and forth.

TI’s technology, known as digital light processing, uses postage-stamp sized MEMS micromirror devices to reflect and direct the image onto the big screen. Powered by the Digital Micromirror Device, it contains a rectangular array of up to 2 million hinge-mounted microscopic mirrors. The bit-streamed image code entering the semiconductor directs each mirror to switch on and off up to several thousand times per second. When a mirror is switched on more frequently than off, it reflects a light gray pixel; a mirror that's switched off more frequently reflects a darker gray pixel. A color wheel provides a filter for red, green, and blue which when combined into a system with three color wheels provides over 35 trillion color combinations. In a three chip system, each chip handles one of the three colors providing a more efficient output.

Kodak also plays in this space and plans to use the D-ILA, or digitally driven image light amplifier, which uses a reflective liquid crystal display rather than micromirrors. In a D-ILA, the light from a Xenon light travels through a polarized beam-splitter, then through a projection lens and onto the screen. By using a reflective LCOS device, with a high aperture ratio and high-density pixels, the image blends together almost seamlessly providing a high-resolution image with film-like quality.

D-ILA technology provides 2048 x 1536 pixels on a 1.3 inch chip. Its CMOS design places the matrix addressing switches behind the light-modulating liquid crystal layer and not in front. This eliminates the “screen door effect” that comes with other matrix display technologies. While TI is ahead, the JVC technology Kodak uses appears to be a more complete system for capturing, storing, and displaying content.
For those buying a home TV, the choice between DLP and LCD is still a close one. Check out this site for a comparison.
If you are working with digital imaging/cinema technologies, I would like to hear from you. You can reach me at

Best regards,
Hall T. Martin

Friday, November 11, 2005

Microsoft and Emerging Technologies

Microsoft invests heavily into emerging technologies. Although their Research page has some holes (a few of the links give a “no page found” message) they are doing some interesting things. Here’s what I found:

As digital photography matures, one can apply digital techniques to an image with interesting results. Richard Szeliski at Microsoft focuses on using computer vision for human-computer interaction and for analyzing image databases.

Microsoft has a page of Related Web Sites which offer interesting tools and resources. The first is SkyServer which provides tools, images, and projects from the Sloan Digital Sky Project. I found the Famous places page to be quite informative. You can actually get an image from their telescope scrolling the sky.

On a more practical note, Microsoft focuses on visualization tools. They have an Excel Treemapper which generates a treemap visualization of any hierarchical data in Excel using color and other visual techniques. There’s a version for download here.

The Interactive Visual Media Group runs the World Wide Media xChange which is a centralized index of digital photos, where photos are tagged by the geographic location where they were shot. By tying location information to the photo and perhaps additional user-added info, one can search the photo library more quickly and combine photos in a more intuitive way. There’s a demo download here.

The Sensors and Devices group use sensors and embedded electronic devices to solve problems. They developed Sensecam, which is a badge-sized wearable camera that captures images into flash memory. The user wears it like a necklace. It then captures one’s movements like the flight recorder on an airplane. People with a medical condition affecting their memory could use it to keep track of them movements.

If you are working with emerging technologies, I would like to hear from you. You can reach me at

Best regards,
Hall T. Martin

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Deep Web – Vast but Not Unsearchable

With so much information available on the web and now easily searchable by current search technologies it may be hard to believe that it doesn’t cover all information available on the web. Wikipedia provides a useful definition of the Deep Web which includes information stored in databases, and multimedia files.

In fact, search engines cover only a fraction of available information. Although somewhat dated, Bright Planet pegs the available information at 550 times greater than what’s found through search engines. This “deep” information is stored in databases and is created dynamically. Marcus Zillman places the size of the deep web at over 600B pages with the searchable web around 6B.

Search engines crawl static pages and cannot dive into databases thus missing it. There are numerous search engines focused on this task. One of them is Turbo10 which searches over 800 other search engines combing through the Deep Web. According to their site they handle over 90M searches per month. This seems to be a common approach to the Deep Web – query on the domain area to find the right domain-specific search tool, and then use that tool to dive into the Deep Web.

The Deep Web is particularly important for teachers. Here’s a list of the top 20 skills an educator should have.

For a tutorial on how to navigate some of these databases check out split-level searching techniques and more at this site.

For virtual instrumentation, GlobalSpec offers a number of deep web search tools.

For additional resources, click here.

If you are working with Deep Web technology, I would like to hear from you. You can reach me at

Best regards,
Hall T. Martin