While there is still doubt over if or when a Blu-ray and HD DVD capable drive will be available, Ricoh has created a single laser that is able to read discs in either format. Their new component will be able to read and write to Blu-ray, HD DVD, DVD and CD with one pickup and one objective lens. The 3.5-mm diameter, 1-mm thick round diffraction plate detects what kind of disc has been inserted, and adjusts to change the laser beam as necessary for the format. They'll be showing off the tech later this week at the International Optoelectronics Exhibition '06 in Japan.
While both formats use blue lasers they record at different distances and widths, a single head that overcomes those differences could make a dual-format player cheaper and a more realistic possibility if licensing fees and agreements don't get in the way. Ricoh certainly doesn't think they will, saying this technology will "make it possible to build players and recorders for all formats which benefits consumers". That's the triple truth, although if this coming technology at all influenced Toshiba's conciliatory remarks recently is unknown.
They see this technology becoming commercially available by the end of this year. It will only be available for playback devices initially, as a higher powered laser is needed for recording. Those of us waiting for a relatively inexpensive solution to the high definition format war will be waiting just a bit longer.