The Future is Here: Flexible, Paper Thin Ultra-HD Screens

amoledThe explosion in computing and personal devices in recent years has led to a world where we are constantly surrounded by displays. Whether they belong to personal computers, laptops, smartphones, LCDs, PDAs, or MP3 players, there is no shortage to the amount of screens we can consult. In turn, this proliferation has led computer scientists and engineers to address a number of imperfections these displays have.

For instance, some of these displays don’t work in direct sunlight or are subject to glare. Others are horridly energy-inefficient and will drain their battery life very quickly. Some don’t have high-definition, rich color, and can’t display true black color. Just about all of them are rigid, and all can be broken given a solid enough impact. Luckily, a new age of flexible, ultra-HD screens are on the way that promise to resolve all of this.

amoled-display-3The first examples of this concept were rolled out at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, where Samsung unveiled its revolutionary new AMOLED display on a number of devices. This was followed up in September of 2012 when Nokia unveiled its Kinetic Device at the World Nokia Conference in London. Both devices showcased displays that could bend and flex, and were followed by concept videos produced by electronic giants Sony, 3M and Microsoft.

Since that time, numerous strides have been taken to improve on the technology before it hits the open market. In research published earlier this month in Nature, scientists describe what may be the first steps toward creating a new type of ultrathin, superfast, low-power, high-resolution, flexible color screen. If successful, these displays could combine some of the best features of current display technologies.

ultra-thin-displayThe new displays work with familiar materials, including the metal alloy already used to store data on some CDs and DVDs. The key property of these materials is that they can exist in two states – when warmed by heat, light, or electricity, they switch from one state to the other. Scientists call them phase-change materials (PCMs); and as Alex Kolobov, a researcher at Japan’s Nanoelectronics Research Institute who was not involved in the new work, explains:

It is really fascinating that phase-change materials, now widely used in optical and nonvolatile electronic memory devices, found a potentially new application in display technology.

A PCM display would work similar to the electronic paper used in products like Amazon’s Kindle reader. Both are made by sandwiching a material that has two states, one lighter and one darker, in between layers of transparent conductors. The inner material is a viscous black oil filled with tiny white titanium balls. To make a pixel black or white, a current is run through a tiny area of the glass to either pull the reflective balls to the front, or cause them to recede.

gst-phase-change-nanopixel-display-640x352In a PCM display, the inner material is a substance made of silicon’s heavier cousins: germanium, antimony, and tellurium. The two states of this material (known as GST) are actually two different phases of matter: one an ordered crystal and the other a disordered glass. To switch between them, current pulses are used to melt a tiny column, and either cooled gently to make the crystal or rapidly to make the glass.

This cycle can be done remarkably quickly, more than 1 million times per second. That speed could be a big advantage in consumer products. While scrolling on a Kindle can be terribly slow because the screen only refreshes once per second, the refresh rate on a PCM display would be fast enough to play movies, stream videos, and perform all the tasks people routinely do with their devices.

https://i1.wp.com/www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/nanopixelspr.jpgTo make the new displays, the research team – led by Harish Bhaskaran, a nanoscale manufacturing expert from Oxford University – used a 35-year-old machine developed by the semiconductor industry. They then laid down three layers that were a few nanometers thick of conducting glass, GST, and another layer of conducting glass. Then they used current from the tip of an atomic force microscope to draw pictures on the surface.

These images included everything from a Japanese print of a tidal wave to fleas and antique cars – each one smaller than the width of a human hair. With this sort of flexible, ultra-high resolution screen, a PCM display could be made into everything from a bendable laptop and personal device to a programmable contact lens — like Apple’s Retina Display, except that it would actually fit on your retina.

https://i2.wp.com/images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/lg-display-oled-2.jpgTurning this technology into products will require years of labor and hundreds of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, Bhaskaran and his colleagues are optimistic. The electronics industry has lots of experience with all the components, so there are plenty of well-known tricks to try to improve this first draft. And they are hardly alone in their efforts to bring flexible displays to market.

For instance, LG unveiled their new line of flexible OLED TVs at CES earlier this year. Now, they are taking things a step further with the unveiling of two new 18-inch OLED panels, the first of which is a transparent display, while the second can be rolled up. Although both fall short of the 77-inch flexible TV on show at CES, the company says the new panels prove that it has the technology to bring rollable TVs with screens in excess of 50 inches to market in the future.

lg-display-oledUnlike their 77-inch flexible TV that has a fairly limited range of changeable curvature, LG Display’s latest flexible OLED panel can be rolled up into a cylinder with a radius of 3 cm (1.18 in) without the function of the 1,200 x 810 pixel display being affected. This is made possible though the use of a high molecular substance-based polyimide film to create the backplane, rather than conventional plastic .

The transparent OLED panel, on the other hand, was created using LG Display’s transparent pixel design technology. With transmittance of 30 percent, the company says the panel is superior to existing transparent LCD panels that generally achieve around 10 to 15 percent transmittance. LG Display claims to have also reduced the haze of the panel, caused by circuit devices and film components, to just 2 percent.

https://i0.wp.com/images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/lg-display-oled-1.jpgAs In-Byung Kang, Senior Vice President and Head of the R&D Center at LG Display, explained:

LG Display pioneered the OLED TV market and is now leading the next-generation applied OLED technology. We are confident that by 2017, we will successfully develop an Ultra HD flexible and transparent OLED panel of more than 60 inches, which will have transmittance of more than 40 percent and a curvature radius of 100R, thereby leading the future display market.

Granted, it will be still be a few years and several hundred million dollars before such displays become the norm for computers and all other devices. However, the progress that is being made is quite impressive and with all the electronics megagiants committed to making it happen, an age where computing and communications are truly portable and much more survivable is likely just around the corner.

Sources: wired.com, gizmag.com, extremetech.com

The Nokia Human Form

Nokia-HumanForm Hello all! As you may recall, Nokia made a rather interesting announcement back at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2011 with the promotional video for the Kinetic Device – a flexible smartphone which responds to user commands through twists and bends in the device’s frame. However, it seems that the telecommunications giant wasn’t satisfied with displaying their upcoming line of smartphones.

In addition, they saw fit to produce a future concept video for what they have named the Human Form. This is a futuristic smartphone which also boasts the new “bend and flex” method of use, touchscreen technology, and has a frame that is (in the words of the company) “humanized”. In essence, this means that the phone is extremely user friendly and intuitive, responding to the user’s own manipulations, touch and gestures, while the frame itself acts as a single display device.

Nokia-Human-FormBut the biggest surprise, for my money, is the tactile feature which allows users to “feel” images. What this means exactly is a bit unclear, but the promotional video seems to be suggesting that the phone will be able to simulate sensations, allowing a person to literally feel features of the image. This sort of technology not only requires a surface which is capable of adjusting its own properties down to the micro level, but an internal processor which is incredibly smart, perhaps even on the order of an AI.

No telling when Nokia plans to begin developing this phone for commercial use. Obviously, the promo video was designed to build upon their current project of building flexible smartphones and touchscreens. But given the current pace at which digital devices are developing, we could be seeing smartphones very much like this one before the decade is out. So save your pennies, because they aren’t going to come cheap!

Check out the promotional video in its entirety below:

The Future is Here: Paper-Thin Smartphones!

paperthin_smartphoneAt last years Consumer Electronics show, the AMOLED flexible display concept was a huge hit. AMOLED – which stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode – is new a display technology that utilizes both organic compounds and an active matrix to form electroluminescent material and address pixels. But what is truly awesome about it is how it allows for displays that are both and flexible.

In the wake of that show, many developers have been presenting some cutting edge technologies and concepts that are still in development, but which build on the technology and are expected to be available within a few years time. One such concept comes from a collaborative group composed of researchers from Queens University’s Human Media Lab and the Motivational Environments Research Group from Arizona State. Their concept: the PaperPhone!

Like the Nokia Kinetic concept, a user is able to control through a series of bending and flexing gestures. The device’s internal circuit memorizes these gestures and responds accordingly whenever they are repeated. Ergo, if you register that earmarking is the command for making a call, the paper-thin phone will bring up a call prompt whenever you bend the corner. In addition, mp3’s will be available on the device, and presumably, internet access.

Paper-Thin-Pamphlet-Smartphone-Concept-2In addition to its ultra-thin profile, flexible nature and smartphone functions, this proposed design represents a growing trend in personal digital devices, which is towards the organic. In terms of design, interface and assembly, the eventual goal is devices that will be indistinguishable from organics. This could take the form of machinery composed of entirely out of “smart” DNA – aka. programmable biological cells –  hybrid devices that utilize organic compounds, and even machinery assembled by DNA structures.

Sure, this may seem like a long way from that eventual, lofty goal, but its certainly a step in that direction. And if technology can and will be manufactured with organic materials, there’s even a chance it could be used as biowaste when we’re done with them. Maybe even compost, assuming they can break down into soil-enriching organic compounds.

Keep your eyes open for more breakthroughs, they are sure to be coming soon. And while you’re at it, check out of the video of the PaperPhone in action!

The Future is Here: Flexible Displays!

It’s like something out of a Neal Stephenson novel, or possibly movies like Minority Report or Red Planet. A display which you can not only morph and twist, but which is barely thicker than a piece of paper. Yes, some pretty impressive developments have been making the rounds in the world of displays of late, most of which are coming to an electronics store near you!

Many of these products were displayed last year at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Samsung unveiled its revolutionary new AMOLED display on a number of items. AMOLED, which stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, is a process where organic compounds are used to form the electroluminescent material while an active matrix takes care of pixelation and display.

The result is a display that can be twisted and shaped without fear of breaking the display, or ruining the picture quality. At CES, many of the displays came on hand-held devices, all of which boasted displays that were almost paper-thin and could be bent, hammered, and still maintain their picture. Check out the video below to see a few such items on display, which have since become commercially available, at least in some discerning sectors of the market.


But what is really exciting about this news is that it is not reserved to any one company. During 2011, virtually all technology firms with a hand in portable devices, laptops and tablets had their own ideas on new-age flexible displays that utilized AMOLED technology. Nokia has its own concept for the “Kinetic Device”, which it demonstrated at the Nokia World Conference in London this past September. This flexible phone is controlled not by touching the screen, but by manipulating the body itself. Check out this video of a demo of the Kinetic running Windows Phone OS.


Megagiants Sony, 3M and Microsoft are also on board, producing videos of products that are under development that utilize holographic technology, bendable displays, and all kinds of neat and futuristic concepts to produce the next great leap in gaming, personal computing, and communications. After viewing the majority of them, it seems clear that the future envisioned here will involve ultra-light, transparent devices that are extremely portable and merged with items we were on our person in the course of everyday life.

We can also expect things like windows and panes of glass to carry displays and interfaces as well, allowing people to get directions and access public databases just about anywhere. Consider the following video as an example of what’s in store. Not to left behind in the speculative department, Samsung produced this video of what they felt the future of tablets would look like:


You know the old saying, the truth is stranger than fiction? Well in this case, it seems the truth is catching up to the fiction. It’s nice when that happens, even if it comes a little bit later than expected. Now if someone would just invent a damn flying car already, we’d be in business!

Source: Huffington Post Tech