Flexible plastic displays are, without doubt, the next ‘big thing’. There is currently a scramble amongst major manufacturers such as Samsung and LG to bring the concept to market, and in fact LG predicts that smart phones incorporating flexible display technology will be hitting the shops before the end of the year.
But these market-ready versions are not strictly ‘flexible display technology’ as it’s defined, but merely ‘bendable’ displays. One of the main exponents of flexible electronics is Plastic Logic, who has made considerable progress in producing a truly ‘flexible’ material that could change the technological landscape for years to come.
However, the Holy Grail still has to be video capable e-paper – the ultimate in flexible display screens for the modern age. So what is the problem? Surely the development of a video-capable flexible display screen can’t be that much of a challenge?
A tricky problem
Actually, it can, and it’s proving to be a tricky problem for some of the world’s most well known electronic producers. They all know just how important to the future development of the gadget industry flexible plastic displays are going to be, but while monochrome and even colour displays are making headway, video-enablement is still lagging behind.
Mainly because that’s exactly what the problem is with the display screens. If you think back to the early days of plasma TVs, high-speed motion would cause a ‘blurring’ effect, and you’d end up with a coloured smear across the screen as the pixels just couldn’t keep pace with the speed of the picture. The same basic problem plagues the flexible display when it comes to video enablement – the framerate just hasn’t reached a sufficient level yet where it can cope with what could be defined as ‘normal’ movement.
Plastic Logic has been making some progress, and they have managed to produce screens that can support colour video playback at up to 12fps. But that isn’t quite up to the mark yet – for true quality video playback you need to increase that speed to around 25 to 30fps. The current 12fps is fine for animations and some clips, as well as flash and gifs on websites. But to sit down and watch a film? Probably not, well, not just yet.
That doesn’t mean that it is an unachievable goal. Challenges encourage innovative, blue-sky thinking, and Plastic Logic is already working on upgrading its current video-capable displays. The expansion of flexible colour display screens is crucial to that advancement, as confirmed by the company’s CEO Indro Mukerjee: “Plastic Logic’s development of a colour flexible plastic display is particularly significant, since the same process could enable unbreakable, flexible display solutions with other media such as LCD and OLED.”
A spark of inspiration
If the video-enablement hurdle can finally be overcome, it could herald a revolution in the use of flexible display technology in a huge range of gadgets – from smartphones and tablets through to large-scale display screens for advertising. The industry has tackled problems of equally challenging complexity before and come up with some creative solutions. It will only take one spark of inspiration to solve this problem too.
Verena blogs about gadgets and technology, covering everything from the latest mobile advancements to display technology. When she’s not online Verena enjoys swimming, cycling and travelling the world.