1. What is it about
You are sitting in a train. You were lucky to find a seat with a table in front of it. Great! Now, you can get some work done. You are travelling light. You just want to note down some of your thoughts from the previous meeting before you head for the next one. You take out you iTube. It is a cylindrical object with a few buttons on it. You press one of the buttons and roll out a fairly large display until the device clicks. Done! You put it on the table. It’s time to reach for the other gadget in your pocket. This one is also wrapped. You unwrap the keyboard and put it next to your display. You press a button and all devices come out of sleep. The display is now on. You tap on the display to activate an application. No you start typing away. You always preferred your own keyboard. The keyboard and the display are wirelessly connected to the PDA which is somewhere in your pocket. You are online … You are glad you didn’t have to bring that heavy laptop again. This is so much better.
2. Where is the fun
- Reading e-books as if you are reading from paper will be a natural follow up to reading books. You will no longer feel helpless when you want to search for something in a book.
- Never break a display again. Flexible displays are made of plastic as opposed to glass and won’t break if dropped.
- Fashionable clothing with custom designed displays showing whatever you want to show. You can change them everyday, or let’s hope this doesn’t happen, every second.
- Large flexible digital displays can be used to decorate the city environment such as city centres, museums, art galleries, shopping centre and so on.
- Use flexible displays all over your house showing widgets and useful information about your work. You should be able to control and customize them wirelessly from one place.
- Advertisement industry will have a field day when flexible displays become cheap enough to use everywhere.
3. What are its Applications
- Rollable display technology enables all kinds of novel possibilities especially in mobile devices. A display can be rolled up in a pen-sized case and used stand-alone or mechanically as part of another device.
- It can also be used in industrial products where flexibility is essential or can enhance the display. In fact, LCD display can be replaced by flexible display due to its potential lower power consumption and easy installation on non-flat surfaces.
- Imagine being able to view an interactive bus map on every bus station (such as NextBus’s interactive Google Maps), so not only you could tell where the bus is going but also where you are in the city and what’s around you. Not everyone may have SAT NAV while using buses, so this can help tremendously especially if you are in a foreign country.
4. How developed is it
There is a huge ongoing competition for flexible displays to deliver to the mobile industry for mass adoption. Certainly the potential is very high and currently a lot of resources are dedicated to this technology. E-Ink is the pioneer of this technology with several patents and is actively engaged. So far, the emphasis has been on producing a paper-like display that feels just like reading from paper. Hence, the display is ultra-low-power and there is no backlight. The technology is based on the use of Organic LEDs whose electroluminescent layer contains a film of organic compounds. These displays are usually referred to as Electronic Paper Displays (EPD), but Organic LEDs are not the only technology behind them (see Intel’s patent). The first commercial product using an EPD was the SONY LIBRIé. Other ebook readers using such technology are STAReBOOK, Sony Reader, Hanlin eBook, iRex iLiad ER-100, NUUT and Cybook Gen3.
As for true flexible displays, Philips setup Polymer Vision in 2006 that produced Readius which used small flexible displays that could be rolled up. They used E-Ink technology to achieve this. Philips has tried to improve the technology since then.
5. How can it be improved
Flexible displays need to match the output quality of LCDs that have vibrant colours and fast refresh rates. As history shows, there will be more demand for larger and higher-resolution displays in the future and flexible displays can become an ideal choice.
Flexible displays should have a toggle capability to turn the backlight on or off. For book reading in daylight, no back light is necessary, however if you want to use the display at night, it will be essential to behave as today’s LCDs do.
6. What does it lead to
The ultimate goal is to have a true flexible display that can be wrapped up and packaged neatly in a device. Of course, you expect to see high refresh rates and a colour screen similar to a normal LCD screen. The greatest advantage of flexible displays is that they can be large, low-power, potentially low-cost but with minimal size requirements. E-Ink states their vision as:
“The vision of E Ink is to combine these attributes to create RadioPaperTM, a lightweight, flexible display with the readability of ink on paper but with the added benefit of digital technology to download newspaper headlines or a best-selling novel at the user's command - providing information to anyone, anywhere. In the future, clothing, buildings, household objects and information appliances all will have the ability to communicate. Ultimately electronic ink will permit almost any surface to become a display, bringing information out of the confines of traditional devices and into the world around us.”
We are with you, please let it happen …
And if you want more food for thought try answering this question:
“Should you get paid if you put Google ads on your flexible display attached to the front of your T-shirt when you go to a crowed city centre, anywhere in the world?”