Friday, May 21, 2010

A new display technology - the good and the bad of it

Within a few short years, that LCD display on your desktop, mobile phone, laptop and even your widescreen TV may be "so last week".

That's because a number of companies claim they're making huge advances in the area of flexible displays that are not only lighter, tougher and more efficient than LCDs, they'll also be able to roll up so that when not in use, take up far less space.

As mobile phone users are well aware -- when choosing a phone these days you really need to make a compromise between overall size and screen area. Some models, like the iPhone have opted to completely dispense with a conventional keyboard so as to gain maximum screenspace while others have resorted to sliding keyboards and all manner of other strategies.

But imagine a phone where the screen can be unrolled like a blind when needed -- or which automatically slides out of the phone as required. With this technology, the phone itself could be as small as a pen -- because some of these new flexible paper-thin displays are also touch-sensitive, eliminating the need for a keyboard.

A leading player in this field right now is HP who are chasing the lucrative military market with the promise of active maps. These maps appear as a simple sheet of translucent plastic but when activated, can display any of the topographical or photographic images stored in a tiny integrated processor system. One map to rule them all, so to speak.

Another clear application for this exciting new technology is in the burgeoning market for e-book readers...

Right now, even state-of-the-art readers like the Kindle and iPad are too heavy and bulky for many people to consider practical. Readers based on thin, flexible film displays may change all that, allowing a reader, complete with a huge library of titles, to be made almost as thin and light as just a few pages of the book it replaces.

The only downside of these new low-cost, thin-film, flexible display materials is that there are already plans afoot to harness the technology for advertising.

Eventually, many of the static posters and billboards we ignore every day as we go about our business will become highly animated distractions. It will be like having Flash applets littered throughout the real-world.

I really have to wonder if the benefits will outweigh the penalties of this technology :-)

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