High-Definition Imaging Systems

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Archived Viewpoints

1997

About This Technology

July 2001

Recent years have brought significant advances in high-resolution electronic image and video technology. New hardware and software developments are enhancing system designers' ability to capture, store, process, transmit, and display high-definition still and motion images. Although much media attention has focused on high-definition television, video entertainment is only one area in which this new technology is having a major impact. The development of high-definition imaging system technology has important implications for information industry applications ranging from medical imaging to computer-aided design.

As information proliferates and computing power increases, users in many fields find conventional text and numerical computer outputs ineffective for interacting with data processing equipment. People cannot absorb information in these symbolic forms as rapidly as the new computers generate it. However, they can interpret visual information quickly. Thus, computer designers are combining visualization software—pictorial representations of complex computer calculations—and high- definition imaging hardware to increase users' ability to comprehend masses of computer data. These new high-definition imaging systems confer productivity gains that are in turn becoming important competitive advantages in many markets. High-definition imaging systems have both objective and subjective components. The first category is a technical matter. For instance, a new mathematical coding method may allow engineers to reproduce electronically an image with more detail than was possible before. The viewer's appreciation of this enhanced image, however, may be depend on subjective factors that are extraneous to the actual image. Engineers are trained to look for image artifacts, and they are dissatisfied with images that contain such flaws, whereas a layperson may be blissfully unaware of imperfection. Part of the challenge in expanding markets for HDIS, therefore, lies in raising viewers' expectations of the images they see and in drawing their attention to issues of image quality. In this context, HDTV is important in two areas. First, it is an application area that may generate significant revenue. Second, HDTV has the power to make viewers dissatisfied with the quality of current images and to raise their awareness of and expectations for all electronic images they see.

All information industry companies—whether suppliers of hardware, software, or services—will feel the effects of this change. As new technology becomes commercially available, the integrators of advanced information systems will use it both to enhance existing product performance and to develop new image-based applications. Computer and entertainment software suppliers will need to adapt their products to run on high-definition imaging system hardware platforms. As high-definition image and video products proliferate, service providers—such as common carriers—will accommodate their operations to the new technology's requirements. In the broader competitive context, the productivity gains that visualization allows will make high-definition imaging technology indispensable in many manufacturing, service, and government activities.