There is a certain term used by geeks, nerds and techies. It’s a fairly graphic term called ‘Techgasm’ and is used to describe the incredible lust and overall physical reaction a certain aspect of technology has over a person. This emotional and physical effect is always for technology on the horizon and just around the corner. For instance, cars that drive themselves, ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ Star Trek-style travel, bionic chips embedded within the body and the ultimate Holy Grail – curved screens. And the reason curved screens are so high on that list of techgasms is fairly simple. It’s step one towards achieving tech nirvana, where every gadget will be foldable, curvable and bendable. Well, away from fantasy and dreams, curved screens are finally here with televisions and smartphones. And ever since I’ve arrived back in India, the number one question I’ve been asked is: should I be saving up to by a curved-screen TV? Well, that question is about to be answered.
CES was littered with curved TVs. Not just from the stalwarts and big names, but literally every brand on display and TV manufacturer in the world. You could not walk down an aisle or a booth without a screen wrapping its curvaceous form around you. If every manufacturer in the world seems to think that there is huge potential and a market for this, then there really must be, right? If they all seem to be pushing this technology as the next big thing, then that’s what it must be, right? Well, I have two words for you: 3D TVs!
Too big and bulky: to get a theatre feel, you need a 105-inch curved TV. That's rather unweildy and expensive.
If a technology being pushed by multiple manufacturers has different reasons and advantages attributed to it, it’s a dead giveaway that something isn’t right. Ask any manufacturer about the advantages of a curved TV screen and you’ll get completely different answers: “It’s like an IMAX at home”, “It’s more immersive”, “It fools the eye and draws you in”, “It wraps the picture around you”, “It gives you a 3D experience without the need for glasses”, “It makes the centre larger and the sides closer”. There are a dime a dozen explanations, each backed by a scientific or techie film to demo it. Sadly, my experience was anything but any of these. Here are some of the reasons I believe that curved TVs will roll off the radar without creating any major blip.
Needs to be huge
Some of the best movie theatres in the world have a curved screen. But those are huge and you can’t see the sides. Most curved TV screens right now are 55 inches, and the fact that they are curved is obvious and even a little bit jarring. For a curved screen to truly do its magic, it’s got to be about 105-inches and more, and that makes it very unwieldy and expensive.
Not practical: curved TVs will not work for those who sit on the side of the screen.
Curved TVs are awesome for the person sitting right in the centre but terrible for those sitting on the sides. What you see from the sides is an angled screen, light bouncing off the curvature, slightly less brightness and a view of the side, the bezel curve and even the back of the TV. Very distracting!
The biggest USP of a curved TV is that it is immersive and draws you in. Just how, is what is not answered. A curved TV screen actually looks smaller as it folds in from the sides and that perception is even more enhanced and amplified when you’re watching a movie. A 55-incher looks like a 47-inch screen and that doesn’t make it more immersive. Also, the whole ‘screen that wraps around you’ syndrome is totally defeated as your eyes and the periphery vision don’t get fooled at these sizes.
Can't be mounted
By the very virtue of its awesome curves, a TV with a form factor like that cannot be mounted on a wall. This basically defeats the whole purpose of TVs so thin that they literally merge into your wall or adhere to the clean aesthetics of modern displays. If this has to be kept on a table and ends up taking so much space, then we might as well go back to the old CRT TVs. They also had a curved tube, just that the curve was in the wrong direction.
What's the point? You cannot mount a curved TV on your wall, defeating the purpose of slim TV.
A curved TV that can straighten at the press of a button! Sounds like the ultimate wow device of all time, until you realise that after you’ve curved it and straightened it twice, you’ll scratch your head and wonder why you needed to do it at all! Curved TVs will be the ultimate status symbol and the most iconic product you can buy. This will just prove that you are a tech doofus of epic proportions.
Proof of concept
One of the reasons companies are taking out curved TVs may well be to distinguish OLED TVs from all other technologies. They look different, they look amazing and have unique shape. Unfortunately, it is a silly start to what may well be the technology of the future. By curving regular OLED TVs, companies will also dampen sales of what has got to be the best TV technology in decades.
A 105-inch curved TV will cost about $70,000! Do the conversion. Enough said!
Curved TVs will go the way 3D TVs did, a perplexing technology that was shoved down the throats of customers without them asking for it. Billions of dollars will be spent to ignite the market and spur sales, but once again this will bomb, bad and hard! Curved TVs are doomed and slated for failure even before most of us will actually get to see one. On the other hand, curved smartphones are a truly kickass technology that makes extreme sense. I’ll get into the ‘why’ of that in a future column.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3.
From HT Brunch, February 2
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