Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


Information Communication…

A few years ago, some innovative engineers among us must have decided that technology “convergence” was a good thing, and therefore, we should try adding a digital camera to a cell phone.  At the time, to most of the rest of us, this seemed like a really dumb idea.  Digital cameras were already compact and easy to carry about.  Cell phones were pretty good at making phone calls – although not as reliably as those with landlines.  So why would anyone want an inferior low-resolution digital camera as part of their cell phone?  If you want to talk to someone, use a phone.  If you want to take a photograph, use a camera.  Why combine these two distinctly different activities?  

Well, engineering logic did not prevail and the combination of cell phone and low-resolution digital camera continued to be offered as a product.  Soon we began to see images on the evening news of such events as train crashes and oncoming tornadoes that had been captured at the moment they were happening on cell phones that had been the handiest image capture devices at the time of such unexpected and dramatic events.  And as time went by, more of us figured out how to download and/or send more ordinary images to our friends and families.  The ability for us to record and communicate in pictures as well as by voice began to take root and has now grown into a mainstream capability.   

The latest example of how far we have come is an article in the July issue of Popular Photography magazine that provides a review of a new cell phone with an 8.1 Mpixel imager that is comparable in quality to many stand-alone digital cameras.  This cell-phone/camera combination was developed by Sony/Ericsson and currently sells for about $350.  Clearly this convergence of voice and image capture capability is becoming an accepted way for us to interact with other human beings.

With our ingrained experiences firmly rooted in telephones as a way to “talk” to each other, it has been difficult to appreciate that we may not only want to talk but we may also want to “show”.  Wherever we may be, when we wish to tell our friends something interesting about where we are or what we are doing, it is natural to want to show them what is going on as well.  Most of us missed this fundamental communications concept when cell phones first started showing up with cameras.  And of course at the time – and even now – the communications technology has had a struggle with how to provide sufficient bandwidth to allow for all this additional information flow. 

Nevertheless, the future direction is now firmly established.  We have discovered the benefits of tele-communicating by pictures as well as by words.  The cell phone is no longer just a cell phone.  It’s becoming a communications device that encompasses video as well as audio. 

This of course means that the displays that are an integral part of these devices will need to have excellent resolution and the images will have to be bright and sunlight readable.  And that of course means plenty of opportunities for further innovation and the introduction of new display technologies.  And beyond that, we still have further opportunities in the innovative use of touch for the image capture side of this business.  Today’s digital cameras are mostly menu-driven with multiple levels of access that slow down the photography process.  I’m anxiously awaiting a touch screen that allows me to select the settings on my digital camera with a few touches of my finger instead of the multi-level entries that I now have to make to get the camera to do my bidding. 

Have you already made this “convergence” leap to a high-quality imager and camera on your cell phone?  Or have you become equally adept at sending and down-loading images from you current lower-resolution cell phone?  If you would like to comment on these or related topics, you may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone (via old-fashioned landline) at 425-898-9117.