Business & GA, Commercial

BarcoView’s ISIS, Goddess of Light?

By Ian Parker | April 1, 2001
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Air traffic controllers, spending their days staring at screens, know the importance of clear, easy-to-read images. Screen makers know that, too, and seek to offer better clarity in their products–which is why BarcoView announced Isis last September.

Belgium-based BarcoView touts Isis as "the first true, large screen, 2K-by-2K LCD main display for ATC controller working positions." The liquid crystal display technology was selected to provide more detailed and sharper images that remain stable over time. The display also is brighter, allowing the normal use of ambient room lighting. "Controllers don’t like to work in dark cellars," says Joel Maelfeyt, BarcoView’s business development manager for air traffic control applications.

The Egyptian Connection

Careful thought went into Isis, as well as into the product’s name. Isis, a popular goddess in ancient Egypt, was, among other things, the deity of navigators. Also, ancient Egyptians believed that the square tunnels in their pyramids would allow the deceased to view objects in the night sky. The pyramid bases are square, as well–and so is BarcoView’s Isis screen.

The Isis family employs a 4-megapixel LCD that forms a 20-by-20-inch (50.8-by-50.8-cm) flat-panel display. It is called a 2K-by-2K screen, but it actually provides 2,048-by-2,048 pixels, for enhanced clarity.

Air traffic authorities require screens of least 20-by-20-inches for image density. This results in a minimum character size of 2.5 mm at more than 100 dots per inch (dpi). Thus, the images and characters are easily read at the standard screen/eye distance of 23 inches (60 cm).

Isis is said to be about three times brighter than the cathode ray tubes (CRTs) used by controllers. The LCD gives off no flicker and no unwanted radiation (X-rays). Although the LCD’s viewing angle is less than that of a CRT, users find no problem with Isis, BarcoView claims.

Study of the LCD’s advantages over CRTs continues. Along with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Germany’s Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), Eurocontrol, the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS), and other agencies, BarcoView is launching a study to measure and quantify eye/brain system fatigue. The company believes controllers may be able to work up to 50% longer with Isis before requiring a break.

Isis already has been viewed by about 30 FAA, and 50 DFS, Eurocontrol and NATS controllers. Up to 100 people have spent half a day working with the display.

Both Digital and Analog

Maelfeyt says he is pleased with the reactions to Isis and claims the company paid considerable attention to human/machine interface (HMI) issues. "For example," he adds, "the contrast between the screen and the surrounding scene needs to be right, to keep eye/brain fatigue to a minimum." Isis is much brighter then CRTs, so the room lighting can be brighter–in fact, bright enough for ATC control tower applications where full daylight exists.

The new screen can be used with both analog and digital air traffic control working positions. Its automatic phase adjust (APA) feature assures that it works with an analog input without showing unwanted artifacts. The APA also makes sure that the illumination of each pixel does not stray onto neighboring pixels, which would cause smearing and other unwanted effects.

Isis was designed to include low-heat generation, low maintenance, back-light redundancy (if one backlight fails, the remaining three make the screen readable), and ease of backlight replacement–features to reduce the screen’s life cycle costs. The low-weight, low-depth design is intended to make the screen easy to install.

Four Versions

Isis contains "lifetime and consistency manager" software, according to Maelfeyt. It generates warning messages, predicting failures–for example, of a backlight–for planned maintenance.

BarcoView offers four versions of Isis:

  • A chassis version for integration into workstations,

  • A panel-mount version with front mounting,

  • A monitor-replacement version, to fit existing consoles, and

  • A desktop version.

The displays’ input modules can be fitted with digital and/or analog input boards, which process the data received from 2K-by-2K graphics controllers. BarcoView says that any 2K-by-2K graphics controller, including its own PVS 5611/T, can supply analog data. The company also claims it has designed the world’s first 2K-by-2K digital output graphics controller, the PVS5611/TD, for use with Isis.

In parallel with Isis’ introduction, BarcoView announced last September an exclusive agreement with Korea’s Samsung to produce 28-inch (71-cm) 2K-by-2K LCDs for ATC applications. Samsung is capable of producing large screens, and thus its work with BarcoView was fundamental to the development of Isis.

For more information on BarcoView, visit

Vision Impaired

Here is what controllers don’t want to see on their screens:

  • Images that are fuzzy in general or in certain areas, making the reading of alphanumerics difficult.

  • Convergence that is so poor that white edges may split into the three constituent colors: red, green and blue.

  • Brightness so low that ambient light levels must also be low to discern the images.

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