I saw the future at CES 2023 and didn't want to leave. This show is a hoot and even if I didn't have to go, I wouldn't want to go. A few weeks before this year's CES, Nanosys, the company whose quantum DOT technology powers millions of TVs, offered to show me a top-secret prototype of their next-gen display. Not just any next-gen display, but one I've been writing about for years that could destroy OLED as the king of displays. I booked the hotel immediately.
What could be so interesting that you would drive eight hours to see it? Light-emitting quantum dots. They are even more advanced than the quantum dots used in televisions today. They can. They have the potential to improve image quality, energy savings and production efficiency. In theory, the simpler structure makes these screens so easy to manufacture that they could create a sci-fi world with cheap screens on everything from eyeglasses to windshields and windows.
However, the prototype I saw at CES was unclear. In the Nanosys suite at the Westgate Hotel, a short walk from the convention center, tables lined the walls with a variety of televisions and quantum dot monitors. And there, on the table by the door, was the 6-inch prototype he wanted to look at. A maze of wires connected it to multi-layer circuit boards. It was incredibly smooth, like a shiny sheet of paper. A scrolling gallery of colorful nature images, the de facto default content for preview demos.
I felt like I was seeing something from the future because it basically was. This is so relevant that Nanosys said I can only view a blurry image and not record video. I was told that their as-yet-unnamed manufacturing partner would be revealing more about the tech in a few months, but hopefully we'll find out soon. For now I can tell you the following.
QD past and present
Let me repeat this for a moment. Quantum dots are tiny particles that, when activated, emit light of a specific wavelength. Quantum dots of different sizes emit different wavelengths. Or in other words, some points emit red light, others green, and others blue., but for display technology . They are also extraordinarily efficient, radiating the same amount of absorbed energy almost perfectly.
In recent years, television manufacturers have used quantum dots to improve the brightness and color of LCD televisions. The "Q" instands for "Quantum". Originally, quantum dots were only used in high-end TVs, but now they're used in budget and mid-range TVs from brands like Samsung, TCL, Hisense, LG, and Vizio. They deliver , and more.
Samsung recently. Its QD Oled TVs (and those of its partner Sony) have the best quality of any TV.
Until now, Quantum Dots have always been compatible with other technologies in the game – a futuristic ancient technology booster that increases the effectiveness of this technology. QD were not independent characters. This is no longer the case.
Direct observation of quantum dots
Historically, quantum dots used in imaging techniques have been referred to as "photoluminescent". They absorb light and then emit light. With LCD TVs, this usually means that the LEDs emit blue light. This blue light would be the blue light you would see on TV, but it was also used to coax red and green quantum dots to emit their own colored light. What you see on the screen is blue light from the LEDs, and red and green light from the quantum dots, all of which together help create the image. There are different ways to go about this process, but this is the basic idea.
The prototype I saw was completely different. Not traditional LEDs and not OLED. Instead of using light to make quantum dots glow, he uses electricity. Quantum dots only. Electroluminescence, direct observation, quantum dots. it's huge
Or at least it has huge potential. In theory, this would mean thinner and more energy efficient screens. This means screens can be made more easily and cheaply. That could mean bigger, even cheaper and more efficient screen TVs. Image quality potential is at least as good as QD-Oled, if not better. This technology is scalable from small, lightweight, high-quality, next-generation VR headset displays to high-performance phone displays and high-performance flat-panel TVs.
Nanosys calls this direct display "nanolicized" light-emitting quantum dot technology, which I don't like, by the way. The TV market is flooded with "LED" devices and I find it quite difficult to ask the average person to understand the difference between "nano", "" and " ". But hey, if I was good at marketing, they would pay me a lot more.
The future of science fiction
The potential for TVs and phone screens is impressive, but light-emitting QDs don't end there. With a simpler screen structure, you can use QD-based screens in a variety of situations. More precisely, on large areas. Essentially, you can print a full QD screen onto a surface without the heat required for other "printing" technologies.
What does that mean? Almost any flat or curved surface can be a screen. This has long been promised by various technologies, not to mention countless sci-fi shows and films, but light-emitting CT has the potential to make it happen.
For example, you can mount a screen on your car's windshield for a more sophisticated, high-resolution, easy-to-read display. Sure, speed and navigation instructions, but what about augmented reality for safer night driving with better road signs and road signs on the QD screen? Or imagine a windshield that shows you where you are surrounded by other cars without taking your eyes off the road. These types of QD screens can have a light transmission of 95%, which means that when they are off, they look more or less like regular glass.
Ever since I bought glasses, I've dreamed of having a built-in screen that could show me information like in a video game. The AR glasses were special, but they're clunky, low-resolution, and frankly boring. The QD display can be printed directly onto the lenses, requiring less complex electronics in the frames. While they look like regular glasses, they display data from incoming messages, video calls, maps or a movie. Everything is very cyberpunk.
Almost any surface can work like this. I think the first obvious use, boring as it is, is in bus or subway windows. First, they are organized by the city to show people important information, but they are inevitably used for advertising. Of course, this isn't a jab at technology, but at the way everything in the world works.
Beyond the quantum world
The history of CES is full of advanced prototypes that never made it to market, left behind by history and the creation of bald tech journalists. Nanosys has a long history of working with some of the biggest names in the manufacturing world. It's something they've been working on for years. It was always on the edge of the chart they shared every year. When I came across them a few years ago, the first quantum dot displays were about to be released. Now they are everywhere. A few years later there was talk of adding QD to OLED. Now they are there. His goal has always been autonomous electroluminescence CT with a direct view. And now it's here.
Somehow. This is a prototype. Even Nanosys admits that direct-view quantum dot displays are still a few years away from mass production.
The initial cost of production determines the dimensions we initially see. First phones and virtual reality headsets, then televisions. May be. TV production is expensive and companies will be reluctant to renovate or close old factories until a full return on investment is achieved. So it's likely that we'll still have legacy LCDs with QD-Oled quantum dots on the shelves alongside QD-Oled and Direct View for the foreseeable future.
Besides, who knows? Surely some new technologies will be even better. But in 5-10 years we will almost certainly have options for QD screens on our phones, maybe in our living rooms and maybe on our windshields and windows.
Yes, you see, the visit to CES was definitely worth it.
In addition to reporting on television and other display technologies, Jeff leads photo tours of museums and landmarks around the world including nuclear submarines, giant aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips and more. Learn about all of their tours and adventures .
He wrote a best-selling science fiction book about city-sized submarines and its sequel. You can follow their adventures on Instagram and YouTube.