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Sony licenses GLV from Silicon Light Machines

450 Views 28 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  buialat
Silicon Light Machines and Sony Corporation Work to Advance the Development of Grating Light Valve -- GLV -- Technology

SLM Exclusively Licenses its GLV Technology to Sony for Display Applications

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 13, 2000-- Sony Corporation and Silicon Light Machines, a developer of a silicon-based digital display technology used in high-performance imaging applications, today announced an exclusive licensing agreement for Silicon Light Machines' Grating Light Valve (TM) (GLV(TM)) technology to accelerate its development for successful market introduction. The two companies will now concentrate their efforts in their respective fields of strength. Sony will focus on GLV-based display systems, and will be entitled to the exclusive manufacturing and marketing rights for

GLV devices and GLV products for most display applications. Silicon Light Machines will now focus its efforts to develop products for other imaging applications and the rapidly growing field of optical communications.

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This technology requires lasers to make it work and I do not think it is going anywhere. JVC's upcoming 1080 by 1920 DILA chips will wipe out any need for this ultra expensive and possibly dangerous technology.
Heh, it shouldn't be much more harmful to look into a laser projector than it would be to look into any other type of display. You shouldn't look at tightly focused bright light period.

Dave is right, lasers aren't anymore harmful than regular light of the same intensity (it's just a coherent beam of light). The danger is from how tightly focused the light is, which means you can get much higher power in a very small area, and the fact than you can't see lasers until they are actually shining right in your eye (which is a little too late...).

oh almost forgot the other part of your comment...From what I've read on their website, it seems like they might use multiple diode lasers (the same type that are used in CD/DVD players, but at a higher power I think) so price shouldn't be that bad...AND there are no bulbs to replace! (the laser should last a REALLY long time)



[This message has been edited by KFung (edited July 14, 2000).]
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I agree with KFung, I read on their website that the technology is quite affordable. Not that these projectors will be priced any lower than comparably equipped projectors. Sony will just get to make a bigger profit on this technology.

Kevin C.
I remember when Sony signed on(CES)for a little piece of the DLP action.Now SLM we have talked about as a possible saviour for a long time gives Sony an exclusive license.I feel a migraine coming-but wait,it may turn ok.Sony spends the bucks,builds a better mousetrap,speeds it to market and with little price pressure sells it to us for a good price.(Oh Wow)I hope they do,many would be thankful.(I always wondered if those deadly lasers caused the fall of the laserdisc empire.)

Was the competition asleep in the deep to allow this to happen or were there no serious takers?Did Sony see this item to be the winning hand in the Digital Cinema sweepstakes.Maybe over the next few years JVC wins because we want to punish DLP and Sony(if they awaken a sleeping giant.)
http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif Hey Peter(Panaramax)

those jillion colors rendered perfectly by DLP(3chip)could fade away(Gen McArthur)under the SLM tide.

"Say it isnt so"(Joe) http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif



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Damn, looks like sony will introduce another betamax. With no competition in the marketplace for this technology we're probably looking at another $15K+ projector. I was hoping since this came out of silicon valley that we would see a number of diplay companies using this technology, too bad.

This issue has been discussed on this forum before. It may be a matter of liability insurance for these units. Using them for rear projection should be OK and safe. But for use as a front projector? The lasers would have to be pretty powerful and the blind little kid scenario is disturbing. Has anyone ever been blinded by those little red pen lasers people use? How bright would a laser have to be to progressivly paint a 12' diagonal picture?

If I were Sony I would rather investigate the possibility of a cheap and safe 200 Watt sulfur-microwave lamp that could have dual use in projectors and for home lighting. Team that up with a 1080 by 1920 DILA and you have a real machine.
I'll explain this to you one more time. Laser light is no more dangerous that any other focused light. This includes the projector you own right now. If you look directly into you projector when its on, it'll do just as much damage to your eye as looking into one of these GLV projectors. The only differene is you might now see the laser light until its right in your eye. But this is no more dangerous that any other projector. There is no increased liability.
This device scans at such a high rate that even at fairly high energy densities for the lasers it should not be a problem to use in a front projection form. It should also be noted that the collimated property of the laser is what allows it to be so tightly focused. The diffraction grating aspect of the GLV technology should reduce the beam collimation.
Ken has pointed out the fly in the ointment that makes GLV unlikely to be the bang-for-the-buck savior we were hoping for. Lasers are expensive.


"Heh, it shouldn't be much more harmful to look into a laser projector than it would be to look into any other type of display. You shouldn't look at tightly focused bright light period."


Go out in the sunlight with an open ring 3" in diameter and let the sun shine through the ring to your pant leg. No problem.

Now fill the 3" hole with a 3" lens and focus the exact same amount of harmless sunlight to a tiny dot on your leg. Och!

The reason lasers can be used as weapons is because they can be tightly focused. Lasers can be used to illuminate a small spot on the moon. It is the wattage in relationship to the area on which it is focused. Imagine shinning a spotlight at the moon and hopeing to get a recognizable beam at the other end. Regular projectors are like spotlights.

[This message has been edited by Christopher Calder (edited July 15, 2000).]
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Can I suggest that anyone who's interested or concerned downloads and reads the white papers on the SLM website.

Many, if not all, the issues, fears and prejudices expressed here can be answered through some careful reading.
I think this could be one of the best things ever for home theater. It would have been difficult for SLM to break into the market without this alliance with Sony. Sony has the name brand that could put this technology on the map rapidly. Sony is realizing that LCD doesn't have a chance against DLP in the future. On paper GLV could give DLP and D-ILA a run for their money.

This technology might change projectors as we know them. Here are some things to think about:

1) GLV technology should hit the market with 1080P capability from the beginning.

2) When changing aspect ratios from 16:9 to 235:1 to 4:3 there will be no black bars anywhere on the sides. Nothing makes Joe Sixpack madder than black bars.

3) Will a cooling fan even be necessary with a laser illumination?

4) Three GLV's should be fairly inexpensive to manufacture. Let's hope Sony will pass along the savings. The largest expense should be in the lasers and scanning device, right???

5) No pixilization. This should work similar to a CRT except it will scan all lines simultaneously resulting in a very smooth picture.

6) Will the GLV reflect light as well as DLP providing decent blacks?

7) Sony does a decent job with tailoring projectors for home theater (Out of the box performance, Fair price, decent internal scallers, quiet operation). Sony also is a partner in 5C copyright protection (firewire)technology which will heat up in the next year in the battle agains DVI.

Let's hope that Sony can get GLV to market ASAP. They will have to get on the ball if they want to stay in the technology race with JVC. I really hope this will put the heat on DLP and D-ILA. GLV hasn't proven itself yet but it looks darn good on paper!

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Not quite completely true.

Since laser light is coherent and monochromatic, it focuses to an extremely small spot compared to normal projector light. To get color, one would use at least three lasers (R,G, and B) The net result is that inside any eye, hot spots can occur which can cause damage.

This may not be as big of a problem in practise, because its easier and cheaper to use a laser array to get higher output powers. The coherence of these is not as big of an issue since the individual laser modes from different lasers are not usually coupled.

High light output LEDs are sometimes used to avoid the coherency issues, but the light from these can not be collimated as well.

Typically lasers produce 120 to 360 lumens per watt of optical laser power, see http://www.repairfaq.org/sam/laserioi.htm#ioilpm5

A 1200 lumen laser-based projector will need 3.3-10 watts of laser power spread between red, green and blue. Since most semiconductor lasers have a hard time with 10 mW output, the light source is going to be expensive. Also, don't forget, lasers have finite lifetimes, with the lifetime getting shorter as power goes up and the spectrum shifts to the blue. (i.e. red shift with time)

In a forum where the cost of a Xenon bulbs is a recurring topic, I hate to see the reaction to laser replacements.


Ken Elliott
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I've been pouring over the SLM website last night. I have checked it every two months or so for maybe a year. They clearly had a unique way of solving the problem. I'm very happy, since it has the potential to eclipse everything out there including D-ILA DLP and CRT. I'm also sad because it's in one companies hands. I would hope SONY would take the "less margin, more volume" route.

The SLM site is constantly purporting their lower cost. Their ability to yield many GLVs out of the silicone wafer, the use of inexpensive lenses, common technology, etc. SLV has been marketing (yes marketing) this angle pretty heavily, obviously to attract investors and licensees.

In light (sorry) of what this technology can bring, it's unfortunate that the majority of this thread isn't concentrating on the vast potential, and what this could mean for guys like us. Instead, the conversation is vaporizing children on stage. Please. Let's put away our Dr. Deathray comics.

Some people are bound to be mad and resentful, since they just plunked down big $$ for a new CRT or digital unit. That's natural, but we can just as easily focus on what this offers us rather than trying to find the fatal flaw.

Be like Bryan, he's excited.

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I can only assume that SLM and Sony have a plan as to how to make a display unit out of this technology without killing everyone who watches

it. Otherwise, they for sure won't have any repeat customers http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

I'm not sure how soon they can get this to market, though. The D'ahlia, for example, has been announced for a long time, with no definite release date yet. Sony has only just acquired the rights to use the technology.

[This message has been edited by SteveMcWilliams (edited July 16, 2000).]
I just took a look at the SLM web site. It seems that the chief intellectual property is the MEMS light valve that they are using. Id competes with the TI device.

It should be noted that they are not in the laser business, they must buy from external suppliers. EMCORE makes blue LEDs with about 1 mW ouput power. An LED array is the best bet for low cost.

Blue lasers are a longer prospect. They were first demonstrated in Japan by Nichia. You can buy a 5 mW blue laser for $2000. UCSB published a paper last year for a blue laser at 10 mW. It had a lifetime of 6 hours.

I think that this is good stuff, but its not ready for prime time. Don't give in to the hype. Sony will probably combine the array with Ar/Kr ion lasers for theater projectors at >$50K or use some other light source.


Ken Elliott
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Peter (Panaramax),

Don't remember what kind of colour depth a TI chip can render (but I believe it's a pretty large number of bits...). In any case one of the whitepapers on the SLM site states that the device can cycle a few orders of magnitude faster than a TI DMD device. The estimates they give for a 1080 pixel wide device running at 1920*1080*60Hz is 8-bit grayscale/sample (256 shades) * 4 samples per line. It's a little confusing, but the end results is about 10-bit grayscale. Of course the SLM device only displays one line at a time so a lot of the faster cycle rate is used up displaying all 1920 lines.

One of the really interesting things about this approach is that to make a wider image you only need to make the device scan across a wider area, and there seems to be ample room in the device to make this possible. This means you could have a constant height solution with a SINGLE lens, you just have to design it for the widest image (2.35:1 maybe).

Plus laser illumination could provide PERFECT colorimetry over the life of the laser. I haven't looked at the technology in a while, but a laser's colour is a function of the material used to generate it. Since the material doesn't change over time, the colour of the laser will not either. Brightness is another matter. Would someone with more experience care to shed some light on this?

The contrast of the device seems to be VERY high, on the order of 4000:1 in optimized conditions. Contrast this with the 1000:1 of the D-ILA chip (just the chip, not the optics). I vaguely remember 2000:1 for the chip in practical applications (without considering the optics). This is film-like contrast levels!


This also answers your question about refresh rate, if I read the whitepaper correctly, the device will refresh each frame 4 times (so about 240Hz).

Just to beat a dead horse,

As I said before laser light is not more dangerous than any other light *of the same intensity*. I went on to say that one of the dangers is the tightly focused nature of the beam which allows great intensity in a small area.

In any case the device does not project a spot of laser light onto the screen, a "lens" (that's not the term they use...but close enough) stretches the beam to illuminate the whole device, a long strip 1 pixel * 1080 pixels, and this light is reflected onto the screen.

The projected image is functionally identical to any other projector, and the light exiting the projector is not inherently any more dangerous than any other non-laser technology.


I am inclined to agree with you that it will take around 1.5 years to get any kind of product (at least!). The press release mentions 6 months to integrate the technology, then they can start real product development. SLM's previous experience will be helpful, but a consumer-level products still seems far off (even consumers like us!). I wouldn't go so far as to say vapourware though, that has all kinds of bad connotations for me. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif


Kam Fung
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The bad news (IMO):

They are going to build projectors for large venues first, then HT, so we are probably at least two or three years from an affordable HT projector.

Sony products tend to be a little expensive.

The good news:

Sony products are usually excellent quality, so this technology is probably very promising if Sony was willing to pay for exclusive use. Also the projectors that Sony markets will probably be very good.

Sony builds projectors for the HT market.

Sony is large enough to produce and sell a lot of projectors thus taking advantage of economies of scale (and spurring companies with competing technologies to provide better quality products at less cost).

It looks like the tecnology is relatively inexpensive.

They claim excellent black levels.

If this is true they can easily produce any aspect ratio/resolution by turning off some of the vertical pixels and by displaying a variable number of horizontal pixels. For DVD for example they could display either 480 or 960 horizontal lines and either 730 or 1440 vertical lines.

Of course we have to wait to actually see the technology because SLM is going to tell us its great regardless.


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