What's New in Technology for September 2003

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The debut of a new 48-hour DVD last month is expected to revamp the video industry—from blockbuster movie rentals to employee training videos—and, in the future, to provide marketing gurus with a slew of new options for specialty advertising and other promotions. The new DVD product—known as EZ-D--has initially been earmarked for consumer trial in the video rental market, but industry pundits expect it to be adapted by many industries into a variety of business applications including video games, television programming, “give-away” bonuses and other promotional education as well as training materials and software.

EZ-D is similar to a conventional DVD with one major exception—it has a 48 hour viewing window that commences when the disc is removed from its packaging. After this time, the DVD self-destructs because air-contact renders its surface opaque and unreadable by the DVD player. Its makers are quick to note that the self-destruct mechanism is safe—not incendiary. Forget any images of pre-recorded “Mission Impossible” tapes turning into flames, smoke and ash.

In its first introduction in the home entertainment industry, EZ-D will provide consumers with easy access to recently release movie titles in places they already shop. Consumers can watch EZ-D DVDs at their convenience as many times as they wish during the 48-hour play time. There is no hassle with returns, late-fees or problems with scratched discs. EZ-D discs stay in pristine condition in their case for up to a year, and they can be used in all players, DVD drives and gaming systems designed to accept standard DVDs.

The new DVD product, EZ-D, is being test marketed first to consumers by Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The flexible-play DVD technology was developed by New York-based Flexplay Technologies, Inc., in collaboration with the plastics division of General Electric. Flexplay uses a special version of Lexan®, a polycarbonate plastic discovered in 1953 by a chemist employed by GE. This tough resin is found in many everyday applications including car panels and computer cases as well eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs

Other Applications
Not only is the new DVD technology slated to change the DVD manufacturing process and revamp the video rental business, but also it is expected also to spur other retailers to enter the DVD business. It may also make movie rental “freebies” a more attractive promotional device for companies as varied as hoteliers or pizza delivery chains. Looking further down the road, industry observers forecast that different versions of the original product—tweaked to remain playable for shorter or longer periods could be used for sales tools or marketing promotions—as varied as consumer testing of new computer games, or previews of business services, or continuing education materials and employee training materials.

New Developments in Polymers
The original polycarbonate material, Lexan® resin, is comprised of single chains of small molecules or monomers linked by a chemical bond. The new polycarbonate used in EZ-D is a co-polymer in which two different monomers form alternating links of the chain, and it is considered a technical breakthrough for Lexan® resin. Not surprisingly, the developers of the new EZ-D polymer are not disclosing exactly how air exposure causes the DVD to self-destruct within the prescribed time period. Variations in the rate at which oxygen penetrates the co-polymer appear to be a critical component of the overall process.

Stay tuned to see how the new DVD technology fares in the home movie segment and for more innovative application ideas from savvy consumer goods companies and service providers.


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