Beyond the bull****

A new product is revealed, a software is updated, a startup is bought over, there's something new every day, or every hour ?EUR" it?EUR(TM)s just mind boggling!. Find out what makes things tick, and don't get swayed like the rest of the sheeple out there.

Published Date
15 - Nov - 2013
| Last Updated
15 - Nov - 2013
Beyond the bull****

As a technology journalist, keeping up with this ever changing world can be quite a task. A new product is revealed, a software is updated, a startup is bought over, there’s something new every day, or every hour – it’s just mind boggling! Most of what I write about as state-of-the-art today has the shelf life of fresh cream. But that’s what makes it all the more exciting.

Take for instance my recent quest to get myself a new phone. I had so many new technologies, specifications, models and brands to choose from. Finally, I settled on one that had a TriPhoton sensor, ColdForge housing, and a Petamicron processor. What sealed the deal was the all new Anirobular display! This would be exciting news, except none of the technologies I mentioned actually exist. The first three are just random rubbish, and Anirobular is in fact just an amalgamation of Anirudh and Robert – both of whom are always cribbing about every display they use.

Yes I pulled the 3 Idiots gag on you and my apologies for drawing you in, but I’m trying to highlight the growing trend of inventing marketing monikers and just renaming run-of-the-mill technologies to something fancy to make them sound groundbreaking.

Now when I hear words such as UltraPixel, I cringe and ask myself, “Is this a marketing buzzword created by ponytailed yuppies in a boardroom, or actually something born out of a bonafide research laboratory?” As a Digit reader, you’re already aware that Apple’s Retina Display is in fact just a high-resolution LCD screen with a ppi rating of 300 at close range, or that ClearBlack is just a regular AMOLED with a polarized layer packed in – much like anti glare sunglasses.

Why can’t companies just call things what they are? Why hide behind invented terms? It’s because they want you to buy, and you will if you are dazzled by their little gimmicks.

Companies also want to obfuscate the underlying technology to add a sense of mystery and leave things open to interpretation. Sony, for example, has been talking a lot recently about its Triluminos displays. If you go by marketing material, they use these mystical things called Quantum Dots to produce “true, natural shades of colours”. How? That’s left to your imagination.

Google Quantum Dots (QDs) and you find that researchers at MIT and QD Vision have been working for a decade to use these QDs as actual pixels without filters, since they output a much purer colour than other lighting sources. However, it’s hard to achieve for large screens still. So has Sony finally cracked the technique?

No. Sony’s Triluminos displays are simply modified LED LCDs, which use pure blue LEDs (instead of white), and a couple of quantum dots per LED to get purer forms of colours going into the regular RGB filters. This isn’t technically a true QD display, more like a QD-supported LCD, just as LED panels are actually LED LCD panels, but most people won’t know that.

It’s not always the case though, because some monikers actually help describe a technology that is too technical to explain otherwise. Sticking with display technology, take the example of the Kindle Paperwhite. The Paperwhite’s e-ink display has a front light that’s diffused onto the screen evenly using optical fibre that’s been flattened out into a sheet. This forms what Amazon calls a Light Guide, which really is something innovative, and all of this information is easily available.

At other times, there really is a completely new underlying technology for which a name just evolves. Electrowetting, for example, is currently being pioneered by a company called Liquavista. Displays based on the principle of Electrowetting use an oil that responds to electrical charge. Such displays are reflective (like e-ink), but with much greater refresh rates. When this technology becomes commercially viable (in all probability, combined with the Light Guide) you will have a new name to remember – something like OilectroD, OLit Display or OiLED – but that will certainly be more justifiable than calling something that already exists a new name.

Points finger at Apple’s Retina display again *

It’s what we’ve always aimed to do at Digit: prevent you from falling into traps and getting swayed with jargon like the rest of the sheeple out there. While these new “technologies” may certainly be improvements over existing ones, you will always have the quiet satisfaction of knowing that while your friends sound amazed with the recently resurrected Hyperloop concept of 2012, you will be able to calmly point out that it’s merely a reinterpretation of the VacTrain (evacuated tube trains) from the 1970s! Here’s looking forward to many more years of cutting through the bull**** together on this exciting journey through technology.

Siddharth ParwataySiddharth Parwatay

Siddharth a.k.a. staticsid is a bigger geek than he'd like to admit. Sometimes even to himself.