At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the 3D TV wasn’t the only futuristic new TV technology to make a splash. Some of the most impressive new 2013 TVs at CES didn’t just display in 3D – some of them had the new 4K “Ultra HD” resolution with four times the resolution of the HDTVs currently on the market, and some of them had flexible screens that could be bent, curved, and rolled up. If what was revealed at CES 2013 is any indication, it’s a good bet that we won’t be using the term “flat screen” to describe our television sets much longer.
CES 2013 TVs GET FLEXIBLE WITH WILLOW GLASS
For all the excitement created by flexible mobile phone screens at CES this year, it’s the flexible television display that might really get electronics enthusiasts bent out of shape with excitement. The high-tech engineers at Corning – yes, the same company that makes casserole dishes and dinnerware sets – have enabled a flexible, bendable, shape-it-however-you-want television screen with its revolutionary display surface called Willow Glass. Corning is not new to the high-tech electronics game – they also invented the Gorilla Glass surface used on many of the most popular Android phones and tablets. Both Samsung and LG showed off prototypes of curved OLED TV sets at CES 2013.
A flexible display would bring some cool new capabilities to the smartphone – the screen won’t crack, and someday you can potentially “fold” your device and put it in your pocket. A bendable TV screen offers a different set of wild and unbelievable new capabilities. A television screen could be “rolled up” like the screen a projector uses to display an image, allowing huge screens to occupy very little living room space when not in use. This type of screen could be set onto rounded or curved walls for an immersive, planetarium-like viewing experience, not unlike watching a curved screen at an IMAX theater. The manufacturers do not call the Willow Glass version of the screen “unbreakable” – you technically could break the screen if you tried hard enough. With a screen that’s as thin as a stack of three credit cards and extremely lightweight, a flexible TV screen would make those enormous wall-mounting brackets and bulky TV stands a thing of the past.
Seeing is believing, so have a look-see at the Samsung curved OLED TV in this TechRadar video showing off CES 2013 TVs.
3D TV SETS: RETRO GLASSES NOT REQUIRED
At the 2008 CES, 3D TV sets debuted as prototypes, and it has taken this long for the 3D TVs to no longer require people to wear 3D glasses to get the full experience. Yes, several 3D TVs at CES 2013 included the long-desired “glasses-free” technology. Additionally, we got our first look at another new 3D TV technology with the HiSense transparent 3D TV – a see-through 3D screen that incorporates actual, physical objects placed behind the screen area. The transparent 3D TV is probably more for retail store displays than living rooms, and the technology still requires those unwieldy glasses.
For a look at the exciting “no-glasses” 3D TVs, check out the CES video below. The 3D is not discernible in this handheld cam video, but you can discern the crowd reactions of “Whoa!” and “That is nuts!” – proving that the razzle-dazzle of glasses-free 3D is indeed real.
2013 TVs: ULTRA-HDTV 4K SETS MAKE A SPLASH
The glasses-free 3D TVs at CES make use of an exciting new technology that really stole the show at this year’s CES – the new “Ultra HD” 4K TV technology. The Ultra-HDTVs are not all 3D, most of the Ultra-HDTVs at CES displayed an unbelievably sharp resolution of 3,840×2,160 – that’s four times the resolution of current HDTVs. In other words, you’d be able to discern individual grains of sand when watching a beach scene in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
The 4K TVs blew everyone away at CES, but they aren’t likely to appear in your living room anytime soon. For one, these sets are really huge – the “smallest” Ultra-HD set at CES was the HiSense 4K UHDTV with a 50-inch screen, and some manufacturers showed off monster 110-inch Ultra-HD sets. The manufacturers say that the screen has to be incredibly large for the degree of detail to display properly. What’s more, most of these Ultra-HDTVs are in the $25,000 price range, and a 110-inch Samsung model costs about $38,000. Expect the Ultra-HDTVs to generate a lot of buzz in 2013, but not too many sales receipts.
Anyone out there planning on buying a $38,000 television set? What would you pay for an Ultra-HDTV? Will glasses-free 3D finally help 3D pop-out of the theaters and into living rooms? Tune on and turn in your opinion in the comments below.
Joe is a San Francisco tech blogger, sports journalist, and regular contributor to the RealPlayer blog. His background writing technical manuals and internet marketing content fostered his interest in web video, while his two years writing for NBC fostered his interest in cracking bad jokes. Joe’s work has been quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly strange decisions.