People in the IT and telecommunication industries are famous for their flexibility. Increasingly, the displays that showcase the images they bring to customers are, as well.
Flexible displays are among the more interesting topics to cover because the results are so striking. For example, PCWorld's coverage of a new flexible color display from Sony includes a video of the prototype, which is shown being wrapped around a 4 millimeter cylinder while continuing to display video. The organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology was introduced at the Society for Information Display conference last week in Seattle.
Sony is not the only company researching flexible displays. Ubergizmo offers some sketches from LG that it says come from patent applications. It is not clear precisely what the dozen or so images represent, but they are interesting to look at. The post suggests that the patent may be an effort by L.G. to protect its rights or to strengthen its negotiating position with others in the sector, which include Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Apple, in addition to Sony.
A small minority of readers are old enough to remember Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio. That is the natural analogy to wrist computers that HP, LG and Samsung are trying to create. This post from Tom's Hardware features a short video featuring Carl Taussig, the director of information surfaces-titles don't get much cooler than that-at HP Labs in Palo Alto. In the video, Taussig says the lab is grappling with the challenge of creating a material that can be rolled up more than a few times. The story links to a CNN report that says the watch the material will go into will be used by soldiers.
It's certainly likely that flexible displays will be a hit. The seeds are being planted, at least at Macy's flagship Herald Square store in Manhattan. Research also is ongoing. Earlier this month, the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University said that it and Sunic Systems, a South Korean company, have partnered. FDC and Sunic will develop flexible OLED and electronic technologies. It was also announced that FDC has bought equipment from Sunic for its development facility in Tempe.
So far, the goal of eBook readers has been to replicate the book experience as closely as possible. EarthTechling suggests that Dragan Trencevski's eRoll doesn't agree with that thinking. The concept design "features a touch-screen menu that scrolls from the top of the document while viewing." The description and picture suggest an eReader that simply rolls up when not in use.
One thing is for certain-or at least likely: Once flexible OLED technology is commercialized, it will move quickly. Sang-Soo Kim, Samsung Mobile Display's EVP and CTO, keynoted the Seattle conference. Kim said that one type of flexible screen, Active-Matrix OLEDs (AM-OLEDs), could reach 45 million units this year, a huge increase over the 2.1 million sold in 2007. The number could reach 600 million-53 percent of the market-in 2015. The story describes the views of others in the field, and there seems to be no shortage of optimism.