At American Eagle, Prysm’s Laser Displays Banish the Bezel; Startup to Present at Tonight’s 5×5 Event

12/8/10Follow @wroush

Prysm is trying to reinvent large video displays. American Eagle Outfitters is trying to reinvent the shopping experience in its retail stores. So it makes sense that first place you can see Prysm’s laser phosphor displays (LPDs) in public is the new American Eagle flagship store at Broadway and Houston in New York City’s Soho neighborhood.

American Eagle opened the location on November 9. One unmissable feature is the series of seven-feet-tall “video pillars,” each consisting of four Prysm LPDs stacked one atop another to form a continuous vertical image (see photos below). Strategically placed near the store’s escalators to provide a captive audience, the pillars show life-size, high-definition images of models dashing through the snow in their American Eagle winter coats.

Try using LCDs or other technologies to build a display that’s 20 inches wide and 60 inches high, and that runs on the power from a normal wall outlet. “The whole point was to go out and do something that can’t be done with other technology,” says Dana Corey, vice president of global sales at the San Jose, CA-based startup.

Video displays aren’t a new feature in retail environments—in fact, the fashion outlet right across the street from the new American Eagle has a huge wall of monitors in the front window. But those are conventional LCD panels, meaning each one has a thick rim holding lamps, electronics, and other components. All conventional video walls are marred by this network of bezels, which breaks up the image and creates what Corey calls “the jailbird look.”

Prysm displays at American Eagle OutfittersOne of the selling points of Prysm’s displays, by contrast, is that they have no bezels: the devices’ unique internal optics mean that the picture extends right to the edge of the glass. As a result, the individual 15-by-20-inch displays can be lined up in rows and columns to form a single image that’s as large as desired.

Member of the Xconomy community will get a special look at Prysm’s displays tonight at our Boston event 5×5: Five Cities, Five Big Tech Ideas. In a bonus presentation separate from the main talks, Corey will be on hand at Boston’s Fidelity Center for Applied Technology to explain how Prysm’s displays work and how the company’s technology promises to change the role of digital displays in retail stores, convention halls, airports and train stations, and many other environments.

I first wrote about Prysm in January, when the company unveiled its technology after five years in stealth mode. In June I got an extensive and illuminating tour of Prysm’s facility in Concord, MA, where the displays’ phosphor panels are manufactured. And now the startup has reached one of its first important milestones—putting actual units in the field. Installations like the one at American Eagle will give the company a chance to see how the displays perform technically and, just as important, whether they deliver on Prysm’s promise of increased impact for its customer’s visual branding and marketing messages. Prysm’s LPDs can be used to show any kind of information, but the company sees retail locations as one of its biggest initial markets.

To understand Prysm’s laser phosphor displays, think back to the old, nearly extinct technology of cathode ray tubes, once used inside all televisions and computer monitors. In these tubes, magnets guided electron beams, which swept rapidly across rows of … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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