The TVs -- both front- and rear-projection types -- will use a snazzy-sounding technology from Texas Instruments called "BrilliantColor." What that marketing-speak means is: three primary colors and three secondary colors, for a total of six. The promise is that it will deliver richer colors -- especially in shades where digital technology is kinda weak, like those golden sunsets you get with Kodacrhome film.
Now at this point, you might be wondering, what's a primary color? OK, quick lesson in color science.
Remember when you were a kid and your art teacher (back when schools had funding for art teachers) showed you how to make green by mixing blue and yellow paint? That amazed me for weeks, seriously. The idea of mixing two or more colors to make a third is the central concept behind color printing and video.
In the print world, the colors you mix are usually cyan, magenta, and yellow. (See the three ovelapping circles at the beginning of this posting.) Printers also throw in black ink to get those really dark shades. This gives us the CMYK system (in which "K," for some reason, stands for black). In video, the three colors are red, green, and blue, giving you the RGB system.
By more than just coincidence, the human eye has three types of color receptor cells called cones. They don't exactly match up to CMYK or RGB, but the RGB match works better for video. So, by varying the amount of red, green, and blue light, a TV can stimulate the human eye to, in theory, perceive any color. (You get black by turning off all the light.)
That's the theory. In practice, no TV can produce the ideal shades of red, green, and blue to match the full color gamut of human vision (as represented in the image at left). Printers have a similar problem with CMYK. So to compensate, they started adding extra colors. For example, I've been using a Canon iP8500 printer with eight colors of ink to make test prints from cameras I'm reviewing.
Now, why is this appearing first in projectors? Because it's easiest. To save money, many projectors use a single imaging chip and illuminate it by shining light through a spinning wheel with color filters, thus flashing the primaries in rapid succession: RGBRGBRGBRGB, etc. It alls blurs into a color picture in your mind. (Unless you move your eyes too quickly, in which case it goes a little psychedelic for a split second.)
So, going to a six-color system is a relatively simple process of adding three more colors to the wheel and retiming everything. That's a lot easier than doubling the number of pixels in a plasma or LCD screen.
Will it work? Hard to say. It was almost tried about a year ago. Philips, together with a company called Genoa Color Technologies, was on the verge of launching a six-color projection set, but then backed out. The main barrier may have been that the set used a somewhat problematic projection technology called LCoS.
BrilliantColor is backed by Texas Instruments, which makes the Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology that goes into almost all the high-end projectors and rear-projection TVs. In fact, one product is already out, the Mitsubishi HC300U projector. Someone at TI told me that she expects more TVs to be announced soon.