Turning Swords Into High-Rez Plowshares?
According to the group, the compression technology allows both the new digital and old analog TV sets to receive a signal compatible to each system without requiring broadcasters to simulcast two distinct signals on two separate channels. A statement issued from the lab says that "the compression concept permits transmission of digital and analog signals in a form that does not require a converter for old receivers since an added software loop in the HDTV receivers recovers the digital information from the same channel." The scientists also claim that the information content in the picture using the algorithm, as measured in bits per pixel, will amount to approximately 80% of that for a dedicated HDTV transmission.
If all goes well, the lab expects that the use of this scheme would supplement the current HDTV format and could allow early expansion of HDTV availability without the use of additional simulcasting bandwidth during an interim period. After HDTV sets are more common, the signal could be converted to the regular HDTV format.
Los Alamos' George Nicke explains, "The most significant advantage of the technology over existing methods is that it permits broadcasting television networks to avoid spending millions of dollars on transmission systems for both analog and HDTV signals. Those potential savings could help stimulate a more rapid acceptance of this technology."
The lab's Kathleen Herrera says, "Currently, there are an estimated 120 million analog TV sets in use in the United States, and researchers estimate that only 30% of the US population is familiar with HDTV. This presents a significant problem for consumers and manufacturers. HDTV manufacturers generate minimal revenue from HDTV sales, and prices for the sets are high. Since HDTV receivers are expensive and programming is limited, consumers are hesitant to adopt the new format. This conundrum means the technology may not take off on its own. When the time comes in 2006 to convert broadcast formats, a large percentage of the population may not be aware of the advantages of HDTV sets and refuse to pay the additional costs for them, while manufacturers must produce HDTV sets to comply with the congressional mandate."
Now for the Swords to Plowshares part: Los Alamos states that the new algorithm is the result of compression research initially conducted for image processing used in underground nuclear testing. A patent application has been filed on this technology and Los Alamos National Laboratories says it is seeking qualified licensees.