December 4, 2013
Roger Hajjar’s Prysm Wants to Bring Eco-Friendly, Life-Size Video To Your
Roger Hajjar’s Prysm Wants to Bring Eco-Friendly, Life-Size Video To Your
A Series of Forbes Insights Profiles of Thought Leaders Changing the Business Landscape: Roger Hajjar, Founder and CTO, Prysm…
“We’re in the digital display business,” is Roger Hajjar’s initial, terse description of Prysm, the company he co-founded and for which he is the CTO. But very quickly one jumps to an animated discussion of the evolution of how light can now be transmitted into a display image using lasers instead of an electron gun, which activate phosphors on a plastic-glass hybrid material using a set of movable mirrors to direct light from several ultra-violet lasersundefinedan innovation and invention Hajjar created and Prysm patented as Laser Phosphor Display or LPD. The lasers scan the screen line by line from top to bottom. The energy from the lasers’ light activates the phosphors, which emit photons, producing an image.
The display images come in 25 inch diagonal, bezel-free, tile-based building blocks that can be scaled to virtually any size with life-like realism and the process is far more efficient than LCD or CRT display technologies and throws off far less heat. And, according to Hajjar, it uses less electricity to run than LED-based display. In fact, a huge, 120 foot-long video wall Prysm recently installed at IAC’s lobby uses 75% less electricity than the projection-based system it replaced and can be powered from standard 110V circuits. According to Prysm, LPD technology has other advantages including great black levels, a wide 180-degree viewing angle, a 65,000-hour panel life with no burn-in issues, completely recyclable components, and their production process is mercury free.
In short, a cheaper, eco-friendly, more life-like display technology than what is currently commercially available anywhere else. No wonder a company founded in 2005 and which introduced its first product in 2010 already has attracted over $135 million in venture capital and potentially more on the way. Disruptive technologies like this that apply to such a big market opportunity as the video display business don’t come along every day.
“I was an entrepreneur in residence at Artiman Ventures and I was reading a lot of scientific papers at the time,” says Hajjar about the process of how he came to develop this innovative new technology. “ I read one from Los Alamos about LED, which is the most efficient way to produce light. I thought if they can change blue light to white light, why not the other primary colors. I have a background in optical physics, in this case lasers interacting with phosphors. These lasers are available, and we can use the atomic structures to interact…instead of an electron beam as in CRTs, substitute the electron with a photon from a laser beam. The idea came from solid stateundefinedwe modulate the light per pixelundefinedit’s cool technology (as in no heat). It took five years to perfect it,” continues Hajjar of his journey to creating the LPD process.
“People joke about it, like I am the Christopher Columbus of LPD display,” says Hajjar about his discovery. “We created a prototype in six months. Display technology typically takes years to create and usually the patents expire before you can bring the platform to market. As a technologist, you get a plethora of options when trying to solve a problem. Pick the wrong option and your done. Pick too many options and there isn’t enough time or money to pursue them all. I pride myself on picking the right option,” continues Hajjar. The first LPD retail installation went on display at American Eagle Outfitters in New York in late 2010.Other LPD deployments include a 120-foot long videowall at InterActiveCorp (IAC) in New York, a 60-foot, 180-degree curved , interactive videowall at General Electric’s (GE) Customer Experience Center in Toronto, and several videowalls for Dubai TV.
“We have about 200 people. Our biggest challenge now is scaling the business, instead of just building trophy display units. We have a video wall collaboration solution with Cisco. It includes a white board function and life size display for the conference room. It’s just like being there. We want the display to act like a TV with a camera. We just launched an ad to promote the product because it’s now a ready-to-go packaged solution,” says Hajjar of the next iteration of his Prysm displays.
“We want to scale the commercial businessundefinedkeep ramping up the business in order to bring down the price point to where the technology becomes available to consumers. We need to reach the volume in order to accomplish that. “The future is a video wall in the home. Currently we can create this at the $100,000 price point, but it’s a whole wall! Once you experience a life sized interactive, video wall in the home, you’ll never imagine watching a traditional TV. We want to be the iPhone in your home,” continues Hajjar.
While everyone is touting the miniaturizing of displays and wearable interactive devices, Prysm is thinking the exact opposite direction. The company is intent on bringing large-scale, life-size video to the home. “The commercial market represents around a $15 billion market opportunityundefinedconference rooms, broadcasters, command centers for mining, utilities and telecommunications companies for example. But the consumer market is our dream.” Hajjar figures the tipping point for the consumer market is a price point of around $5,000 at which point they’ll start to see rapid consumer adoption of the technology. “We just have to deliver,” says Hajjar.
Roger grew up in Lebanon where he had a fascination with light (and at the time, disco). This led him to start a backyard business selling disco balls – mirrors taped to styrofoam balls. As he grew older, his disco ball business became more complex, leveraging the use of light and electricity. By the time he immigrated to the U.S. and began attending Boston University, he had left the 80’s and bell-bottoms back home, however, his obsession with light stayed with him. “It started with my parents. My dad worked for NCR. My parents instilled in me that education is the key to success. I left Lebanon, went to go to school in the U.S. I am lucky that way. I had the opportunity to come to the U.S.undefinedthe land of opportunity. The whole country of Lebanon is four million peopleundefinedbut there are 10-20 million Lebanese living outside the country.I left Lebanon when I was 20 years old when it was a war zone. Survival is half the battle,” reflects Hajjar.
After years of success in the fiber optics field (including the sale of two successful businesses) Roger turned his sights on the video display market. He saw the technology out there and thought to himself: “I can do better.” While reading a research article about the use of phosphors to make white light, he wondered whether this could be similarly applied to create the entire color spectrum. Thus, the early idea behind Laser Phosphor Displays (LPD) came about. Roger holds 75 U.S. and worldwide patents as well as a former research position at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.
“I’ve always been fascinated by light. I used to build disco lights when I was 16undefinednow 30 years later, I am using the same thought process. The principle is the same. We all love light,” says Hajjar. We may one day soon thank Hajjar both for his love of light and for surviving Lebanon when we are sitting in front of our wall-sized, interactive video display in our homes.
Bruce H. Rogers is the co-author of the recently published book Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders now available on Amazon http://amzn.to/OETmMz
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