Apical could revolutionize the display market

Does dynamic contrast the right way

IF YOUVE EVER watched a piece of video, no matter the source or quality, on a handheld device, tablet or notebook, well heck, even on a desktop or TV in your home, you’ll have run into one problem that just about every LCD screen suffers from, poor contrast ratio. We bumped into a company at the MWC called Apical that might just be about to fix this problem for good, as they’ve worked out a very different way of improving the contrast ratio compared to current solutions.

What Apical has managed to do is to come up with a real time pixel per pixel dynamic contrast adjustment, unlike the dynamic contrast ration on pretty much every single LCD screen in the market today that applies a screen wide dynamic contrast ratio. This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s really hard to do this on a per pixel basis on 1080p HD video in real time. Yet, that’s exactly what they’ve managed to do and the company is busy licensing its IP as of right now. The technology is called iridix and you can find a small demo of it here.

Initially the company will put out a software solution that will work on handheld devices, tablets and computers, as long as the graphics power of these devices is powerful enough to drive the software. We saw a bad example of this using an Atom Z500 series netbook with an older PowerVR graphics solution and it couldn’t quite keep up, but the latest generation of PowerVR graphics that for example TI is using in its OMAP4 series of SoC’s will be able to drive the software and of course in your typical notebook or desktop this shouldn’t even be an issue.

However, Apical has also licensed its IP to several companies that are working at implementing into hardware solutions, either as an add-on chip or as part of their SoC and this is likely where the technology really will take off. One of the big benefits of doing things this way is that significant power saving can be had on mobile devices. This might sound odd, but Apical was demoing an iPad into which it has slapped an FPGA on the back running its iridix IP and with the screen brightness all the way down at the lowest setting, there was no problem seeing all the details in the video playing, yet with it switched off, most of the detail was lost.

Apical is also working with partners of integrating iridix into video recording devices, be it camcorders, security cameras or even webcams, although in the latter case it’ll only be on quite expensive models at least initially. By being able to bring out a lot more detail at the time of recording, without getting quality degradation, we should start to see vastly improved quality from a wide range of video recording devices.

In as much as we’d never heard of Apical before, the company developed this technology initially for still images and is working with almost all of the large camera brands such as Nikon, Olympus and Sony to mention a few. This suggests that there’s some substance to its technology already and it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold over the next six to twelve months which was the rough time frame we were given as to when we can expect to see the first retail products using Apical’s iridix technology.S|A

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