FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, November 22, 2004

Are Flexible Displays Ready for Prime Time?

Flexible displays -- computers monitor that could be made paper-thin and foldable, allowing for literal "electronic newspapers" -- are one of those technologies that always seems to be "right around the corner." But like videophones, is it really a technology that people want, even though it sounds cool?

Philips Research has developed a flexible display that might finally serve as a commercially viable product. Their five-inch diagonal screen has a 320x240 resolution and is only 10 microns thick, allowing it to be rolled into a one-centimeter tube. No word on when the display will be commercially available.

The key advantage to this flexible display is its toughness. All the components are plastic, unlike traditional monitors that contain glass and other delicate parts. This would make the flexible display practical for rough-service applications and in the military, where its light weight would be an added benefit. Philips engineers imagine applications such as "smart pens" that could contain a rolled-up flexible display, and flexible displays as an auxiliary to mobile phones and GPS devices. Unique, specialized functions are going to be the key to flexible display's success in the marketplace, after all.

On a related note, a British/German company called rAndom has developed Watch Paper, which is "a fully functional clock printed onto ordinary paper." rAndom claims that Watch Paper can be integrated into household wallpaper, and that it's the first step toward interactive wall displays.

If rAndom can miniaturize Watch Paper enough, another application would be on prescription medicine bottles. An "alarm clock" printed right on the bottle would help patients remember to take their medication on time.

Sources: TheFeature , Beverly Tang