At CES 2023, Samsung announced it had received the industry’s first Circadian Rhythm Display (CRD) certification from German testing and certification agency Verband Deutscher Elektronichniker (VDE) for its Eye Comfort Mode. While CES is usually a hotbed for unique and unusual technology, but this announcement caught my attention more than anything else. Has the industry finally begun to address one of the biggest elephants in the room when it comes to blue light production?
For years the application of circadian lighting has been focused squarely on light fixtures. To this day, researchers still argue with manufacturers about how LEDs are affecting sleep patterns.
It’s not without merit. With 90% of a person’s day being spent indoors, humans are exposed more to lighting through overhead fixtures than anything else.
And yet, whenever I, or other professionals focused in the field of wellness tech, try to describe circadian lighting and the value it holds, we pull out our phone. We talk about our computer screens. We reference displays. When talking about the most prominent cases of blue light exposure, it is the computer and phone screens that get cited for the most readily available data.
TV displays shed blue light as well, but those don’t get brought up nearly as often. Meanwhile, how often do you watch a movie or TV show before turning in for the evening?
So, here’s Samsung, announcing it has created a ‘circadian rhythm display,’ and I can only wonder: How? How do you remove blue light from a display without it affecting the picture quality? How about color? How does this work?
Eye Comfort Mode is Circadian Lighting for Your TV
When we talk about circadian lighting, we mean lighting that aims to better influence the human circadian rhythm. There’s a lot to get into the weeds over how that can be best achieved, but the important thing to focus on is having lights mimic the progression of the sun throughout the day by altering their brightness and color at specific times.
Color is what makes that challenging for displays. Blue light is called that for a reason. Our eyes still perceive it as blue, and in the world of digital displays, blue is combined with red and green to create the variety of colors you get on a television screen.
Take away the blue completely and the screen can’t create as many colors. If you’ve ever used a circadian lighting application like F.lux for computers, you might notice how the later it gets, the more ‘off’ the color display gets.
“We were ultimately working to find a way to achieve the best picture quality while also guaranteeing viewing safety,” noted Beomkyun Rha, Product Planning, on why Samsung initially started focusing on circadian rhythm. “The result was the creation of Eye Comfort Mode, a feature which automatically optimizes picture quality based on changes in circadian rhythm.”
“When planning our approach to CRD, it was extremely important that we could control the amount of blue light being emitted without affecting the picture quality, so we engaged in constant research and discussion with the development team and picture quality team right from the planning stages.”
Eye Comfort Mode, as it is called, is a far more advanced version of F.lux and the technology that qualifies select Samsung displays as ‘circadian rhythm displays.’ Instead of operating on a simple ‘remove this much blue at this point in time’ Eye Comfort Mode uses artificial intelligence (AI) to observe light levels in a viewing environment. Then, it adjusts the picture accordingly, lowering luminance, removing blue light and remixing the remaining color balances in a way that still looks natural for viewing.
To preserve that picture quality, not every last lumen of blue light is going to get removed; only enough to avoid a strong circadian response. The AI will naturally adjust luminance and color levels throughout the day to create the best viewing experience for the environment in addition to making adjustments for circadian response.
The AI also uses localized sunrise and sunset data to inform its decision making in the event of being in an environment where daylight readings are impeded, like say on a cloudy day or in a home theater.
Still Improving, Still Refining
When Samsung set of to create its ‘circadian rhythm display,’ the company stated it was important it had a tangible way of conveying the impact the technology would have on circadian rhythms. Eventually, the company came across an index for circadian stimulus put out by the US Lighting Research Center, one of the main research bodies manufacturers often turn to when developing circadian lighting products.
By using the index, Samsung could measure how much the light in the display would disrupt melatonin production. Samsung then initiated a test project with an external research institute before engaging with VDE in the CRD certification process.
But there is still much work to be done further improving picture quality and expanding the features of the technology, according to Samsung.
“Since people have different picture quality preferences, my goal is to provide customizable picture quality based on personalized needs ultimately,” said Gyuheon Lee, who works in the Product Development Group for Samsung.
“I always ask myself how I can create value in the TV features and performance technologies we design when working on external picture quality evaluation and certification,” Taehwan Cha, Picture Quality Solution Lab, noted. “My goal is to embed such technologies and practices across all stages of our process, from product planning and development to the final stage of certification.”
The Eye Comfort Mode is featured on Samsung’s 2023 Neo QLED and Lifestyle TVs, The Frame, The Serif and The Sero.
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