Corrections or additions?
(This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
December 2, 1998. All rights reserved.)
Vision 2020 From Color TV to HDTV to . . ?
Color television was born in Princeton at RCA. Fifty
years later, RCA has turned into the Sarnoff Corporation, and
Princeton is still on the leading edge of television and video work.
Now it’s not just Sarnoff. More companies in the area have moved here,
perhaps attracted by Sarnoff research, and headline writers sometimes
refer to the Central New Jersey corridor as "Video Valley."
"There are so many heavyweights in the Route 1 corridor that it
is getting harder and harder for the people in the computer industry
to ignore this place," says Tom Lento, spokesperson for Sarnoff
Corporation. "They have to come here if they want to talk advanced
Of all these developments, high definition television (HDTV) and
television (DTV) are the ones making the big headlines these days.
Sarnoff is licensing its design for economical DTV receivers, and
it projects that next year’s Christmas shoppers will be able to buy
the receivers for $400 to $550 (that’s just for the electronics, not
the display). But while HDTV gradually makes its way to becoming more
affordable for the average consumer, dozens of other exciting new
technologies are scrabbling for attention.
U.S. 1’s reporters visited several research centers, including
University, the Sarnoff Corporation, and Siemens Corporate Research.
Each has a story — multiple stories — to tell.
With VideoBrush Panorama, Sarnoff Corporation is once
more taking technology developed for the military and revamping it
for civilian use. But VideoBrush is different from all of Sarnoff’s
other products. For the first time Sarnoff has a product for consumers
that is a mass market retail item. VideoBrush Panorama sells for
What does it do? Video stitching. You take your video camera and pan
across the Grand Canyon. Then you use the VideoBrush Panorama 2.0
software to "stitch together" snippets of the live motion
video in real time and end up with an elongated photo, which you can
send to Grandma (http://www.videobrush.com).
"Kodak says `Capture the moment,’ but all you capture is this
little rectangle," says Doug Dixon of Sarnoff, "and you don’t
have the moment as your eyes saw it." Other software can
together" still photos, but Sarnoff’s is the only one that
still panoramas with a video camera.
"In 1996 we took the Sarnoff technology which had been developed
for government applications and started showing we could do real
on PCs," says Dixon. "It was exciting and sort of unbelievable
at that time. We started evangelizing then." VideoBrush
was founded in 1997 and its distribution center is located in
California, but it is supported by Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton.
"Digital imaging is one of the fastest growing multimedia
says Mark Kirstein, a research director for Cahners Instat Group.
"The availability of imaging application software, such as
will be key to the continued explosive growth of digital imaging
Stitching is a newer word for what is known in the
vision community as "mosaicing," piecing together and
images in a clean way, says Dixon. "Three or four companies in
the PC industry do this." Among the high-end applications are
NASA’s tracking of satellites, or aerial surveying done by those who
manage forests or oil and gas pipelines. "They will fly an
along a pipeline, with a camera scanning the pipeline, and build up
an image. VideoBrush watches the video streaming in, grabs frames,
and makes a still photo that represents everything the video camera
Possible uses are for real estate (you see the whole street in one
glance, rather than just one house), for location research for movie
makers (same reason), and for interior decorating (to view a room
as a whole). In the "pictures of people" area, imagine being
able to take 360-degree view of your wedding reception or family
Also, on a website or in print, travel agents could show exactly what
it would be like to stay at a particular hotel or resort, and a school
could showcase its environment in a more realistic way. For an
see Valley Forge Military Academy’s website at
Last year PC Magazine was calling the VideoBrush product a good value,
"easy to use and reasonably priced." This year Windows
is saying "VideoBrush Panorama lets you do all the stitching and
matching quickly, easily, and perfectly, which is great for creating
those 360-degree immersive worlds on the Web." R&D Magazine
it one of the top 100 new technologies of 1998.
As technology leader for a core group of five researchers, Dixon has
been in charge of developing the VideoBrush software and shepherding
it to market. The title, says Dixon, "means I have a license to
make trouble and find new and interesting things." Now he has
to look for the next idea to develop. "The problem with Sarnoff
is that there are so many cool ideas that Sarnoff can’t internally
fund them all. It is very much driven by finding customers and finding
things to pursue."
Pragmatism matters, in this situation, and Dixon says he learned that
from his father, who teaches marketing at Temple and Penn State.
father has a very critical way of looking at things that makes you
ask hard questions: Why are you doing this? What’s the point of it?
It is a real focus on who is the customer and what do they want."
Dixon lives in Hopewell with his wife, who runs the township’s Meals
on Wheels program, and their two teenaged children. He was raised
in Bryn Mawr, and went to Brown, Class of 1977, where he also earned
a master’s degree in computer science. He spent 10 years at Sarnoff
(then RCA) and then moved to Intel’s Princeton lab for five years
of work on digital video interactive (DVI) research. When Intel moved
out of town he came back to Sarnoff, where he worked on a virtual
reality video game in partnership with Hasbro. Had it succeeded,
game would have marked Sarnoff’s entry into the consumer mass market.
"It was super secret for the longest time," says Dixon.
had prototype games running and brought in kids to play the games.
But Hasbro looked at the competition and decided not to go any
Other VideoBrush products include Whiteboard, which eliminates the
need to take notes from a flip-chart or whiteboard. It captures the
meeting notes with a couple of sweeps of a video camera, saves them,
and prints them for distribution. Another is VideoBrush Photographer,
which enhances the detail of enlarged photographs by combining two
or more slightly different photos to produce a higher resolution.
"My career has been playing with video on PCs because that’s what
I find fun," says Dixon, "and this panoramic software has
been fun for me. I capture my wife’s garden and my daughter Karin’s
room. Her primary form of expression is renovating the room."
Dixon has captured a memory of each chapter in the decorating
And he has a memorable panorama of all her friends on prom night.
"One of the hardest problems at Sarnoff is picking which of the
wonderful things to `productize’," says Dixon. "There is so
much stuff and so much potential that, in some ways, picking one is
the tricky part."
93014-1227, 805-566-0030; fax, 805-566-0084. Also c/o Sarnoff, CN
5300, Princeton 08540. 609-734-2553. Home page:
Video Valley" was the term Matsushita Electric
Corporation of America executives used to describe their choice
of location when they moved 55 Panasonic Technologies employees into
the Enerplex building at 2 Research Way (U.S. 1, April 7, 1993).
Also that year the Toshiba Advanced Television Research Group
moved into 202 Carnegie Center. They were joining other players in
the HDTV world: Intel on Enterprise Way, Hitachi America
at 307 College Road East, Samsung Advanced Media Laboratories
at 1009 Lenox Drive, plus of course the long-time residents —
Lucent Technologies on Carter Road, and Sarnoff. Intel, Samsung,
and Toshiba have since left Princeton, but LGERCA, the
firm, has moved in.
Besides the HDTV researchers, Princeton has a multitude of companies
that support fiberoptic and opto-electronic technologies. Fiberoptic
cable significantly increase transmission capacity for video and other
multimedia. Opto-electronics interface between the transmission on
fiberoptics and viewing on the electronic device, the TV.
PK Technology has 10 employees in Research Park and does
instrumentation. Among the opto-electronic firms are Epitaxx
(which has 208 employees in West Trenton), Photon Technology
(with 24 workers on Deer Park Drive), Princeton Instruments Inc.
(with 130 employees on Quakerbridge Road), and Princeton Scientific
Instruments (with 10 employees on Deer Park Drive).
That doesn’t even account for the other kinds of video or multimedia
firms, such as Sarnoff Real Time Corporation on College Road
East, which works with advanced interactive multimedia servers, or
the computer vision research being done at large corporations such
as NEC USA C&C Research Laboratories (on Independence Way) and
Siemens Corporate Research (on College Road). Other potentially
profitable niches can be found with robotic vision, as with the
ORS Automation at Research Park, video compression technology
(being worked on at Sarnoff as well as other labs), and LCD or LED
displays, as with Universal Display Corporation (see story on POEM,
A wedding photographer forgot to use a tripod and
your video makes you dizzy. Or, a professional photographer grabbed
footage of an outdoor event — a marathon, a tornado, an auto race,
a helicopter aerial shot — that would be great on tonight’s
news, but it’s so wobbly that it won’t pass muster.
Until now you would have to pay thousands of dollars to have your
footage fixed, frame by frame, at a post-production studio. Now you
can send it to Pyramid Vision Technologies (PVT), a Sarnoff
spinoff, and have it fixed in real time (the time it takes to watch
the video) for just $500.
PVT does high-end real-time video processing for broadcast
and the consumer market. Its basic technology was developed for
purposes. Peter Burt led Sarnoff’s research team for the method
by Sarnoff as "multi-resolution pyramid processing." It starts
with an "image pyramid" that transforms images to low
aligns those, and then adds higher resolution information to refine
The overall technology has been spunoff to PVT and is being marketed
to broadcasting companies, consumer video firms, security surveillance
firms, and aerial broadcasting companies. The cost ranges from $500
for a few minutes to fix your video on PVT’s system to $70,000 to
own the complete package. Right now, you can take your wobbly wedding
video to PVT at Sarnoff, but later on, you may be able to send a tape
to an offsite post-production studio that has bought PVT’s system.
"Post-production houses charge 10 times more to do it by hand,
and they take a whole night to process a few minutes of video. Even
then they will not be able to do some of the things we can do, such
as real-time processing," says Deepam Mishra, manager of business
development. Had there been a second Gulf War, one of the three major
television networks had signed a contract to get its battle footage
cleaned up by PVT, using Sarnoff’s digital links for video transfer.
Most of the time, however, messenger services will handle the
Mishra, age 27, heads the 10-person team that is trying to develop
products. A native of Lucknow, in north India near Delhi, he went
to an Indian Institute of Technology, and after earning a master’s
degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M, he came directly
"It is the only place doing research of this kind in the
says Mishra. "It is my privilege to develop these technologies
and marketing opportunities. Sarnoff has so much technology here.
We are sitting on a gold mine. I want to lead the effort into making
PVT a commercial success."
08543-5300. Deepam Mishra, manager business, development. Norman
acting CEO. 609-734-2521; fax, 609-514-4041.
Take out your cell phone, dial up your E-mail, and read
your mail on an OLED display. If OLEDs — organic light emitting
diodes — can make a successful leap out of the laboratory, they
may become the technology governing the display function of every
electronic device you use. CRTs (cathode ray tubes used for computer
monitors) and LCDs (used for laptop computers) could go into the same
dustbin now crammed with black-and-white televisions and rotary
Princeton University researchers, collaborating with a group from
the University of Southern California, now comprise one of the largest
teams in the country doing OLED research. The funding company,
Display Corporation, (U.S. 1, February 25) currently has its
in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with researchers at laboratories at
the university, and administrators in a four-room walk-up at 234
Now UDC is going into the prototype phase. It has leased an
high-tech laboratory space in Ewing at 375 Phillips Boulevard, near
an Educational Testing Service building. The firm has 15 employees
now and will expand to at least 20, says Sidney Rosenblatt, UDC’s
executive vice president and CFO. At least by April it plans to move
into the new quarters, complete with two "clean rooms." Julie
Brown, who had run the preproduction pilot line for Hughes Research’
advanced semiconductor technologies, has been hired as vice president
of technology development to manage the facility.
OLEDs are supposed to be lighter in weight, cheaper to manufacture,
more robust at various temperature ranges, less power-hungry and
more portable. And because they are faster, they are more compatible
with full-motion video. In the most advanced manufacturing phase,
they can be made in high volume with economical roll-to-roll
production, as well as with one-at-a-time batch processing.
"In our new space we will be able to do low level manufacturing
for niche markets," says Steven Abramson, chief operating officer,
"and we will also do the prototyping for roll to roll production.
But our manufacturing partners will do the high volume production
through both joint ventures and licensing arrangements."
Sherwin Seligsohn funded the research, downstreamed the technology
into UDC, and took the company public, raising $6 million on top of
private funding of about $2.5 million. Because of heavy R&D and patent
expenses, says Rosenblatt, UDC posted a net loss of $746,514 for the
third quarter of this year, ending on September 30, compared to
for the same period last year.
The two universities — Princeton and USC — have a stake in
the company that could turn out to be very profitable. They have
shares of common stock, and if they exercise an option to buy an
250,000 shares, they will own five percent of the stock, traded on
the Nasdaq SmallCap Market (PANL) and the Philadelphia Exchange (PNL).
The killer ap for LCD technology was the laptop, but the "killer
ap" for OLEDs has yet to be determined. OLEDs can be used for
everything from thumbnail-sized devices up to entire walls.
First pioneered by Kodak a dozen years ago, the OLED is a solid-state
semiconductor device that actually emits light when stimulated by
an electric current. (Liquid crystals, in contrast, merely reflect
light from a back-lit source.) The O in OLED is Organic: synthetic,
non-biological, carbon-containing compounds. OLED research requires
electrical engineers and organic chemists to investigate
molecules that are luminescent in various parts of the visible
How they give off light is what’s important.
UDL makes functional layered devices using thin-film technology and
gets color out of them from three technology platforms" known
as TOLED, SOLED, and FOLED. TOLED, or Transparent OLED, is the
technology. Synthetic organic molecules are layered in a
film — 1/10,000th of the thickness of a human hair — with
transparent electrodes. With this, you can make any window a display.
You could have information coming in through your sunglasses, the
screen on your cell phone, or your aircraft windshield.
SOLED, or Stacked OLED, refers to vertically-stacked colored pixels
for full color display. Different colored pixels are usually arranged
side by side, which takes up three times the area to convey the same
amount of visual information. So you get true color with three times
the amount of resolution.
For FOLED (with an F for Flexible) OLED film is mounted on flexible
plastic substrates (unlike LCDs in which liquid crystals flow between
two pieces of glass). These flexible surfaces may eventually be
on any surface, enabling you to "roll-up" your viewing screen
and put it in a briefcase.
Want to guess about the killer ap? Imagine different shapes in cell
phones, made possible by flexible OLED.
Street, Princeton 08540. Steven Ambramson, COO. 610-617-4010 or
If VideoBrush can take good aerial pictures of vast
stretches of oil and gas pipelines, scientists at Siemens Corporate
Research on College Road are working on industrial inspection systems
that are efficient and easy to install and use. They can be used for
pipeline analysis, automobile assembly line quality assurance, and
The one-piece system is a video camera containing a tiny PC system
that runs with advanced image processing algorithms. Easy to use,
it can make efficient, real-time inspections. It is particularly good
for where human operators can’t go (for instance on a nuclear site),
where inspection is very tedious (to reduce stress on human
or where an assembly line goes by too quickly for the human eye to
see, says Ming Fang, the project manager.
These algorithms are being used in three systems. Two are current
Siemens products: a smart camera that includes hardware (Vision
and software (ProVision), plus a dedicated machine vision system that
has a camera connected to a computer board (Videomat). The third
used internally by Siemens, is a general purpose software inspection
system (SCR Inspector).
How it might work for a remote site: unskilled technicians at location
A are servicing an industrial site when one part of a pipeline breaks
down. On another continent, at location B, skilled engineers
at the site in 3-D, diagnose the problem, and draw the solution. In
real time the technicians at location A can view the new 3-D diagram
and reconfigure the pipes to make the repair.
"Our main goal is to let non-experts be able to use the
says Fang. "The older systems, you had to hire a PhD to use
Princeton 08540. Thomas Grandke, president and CEO. 609-734-6500.
Home page: http://www.scr.siemens.com.
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