Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eliminating Fingerprints on Displays

One aspect of Display Week that doesn’t get much press attention is the Poster session on Thursday from 4 to 8 PM. Posters are intended to provide a more interactive presentation of papers judged to be of high interest to a narrow audience or that would best be presented in a more interactive format. Around 200 posters were presented by their authors, six of which were about touch technologies.

One of the more interesting touch posters was P-182, “Theory, Design and Production of Fingerprint-Resistant Films for Touch-Enabled Displays” by five authors from Uni-Pixel Displays. Standard anti-fingerprint coatings work by controlling the contact angle of water or oil – hydrophilic or oleophilic (respectively) for low contact angle in an attempt to smooth out the fluids in the fingerprints; hydrophobic or oleophobic for high contact angle in an attempt to repel the fluids in the fingerprints. (The iPad screen uses an oleophobic coating; if you’ve ever seen an iPad being used, you know that it doesn’t work very well.)

Fingerprints consist of a “liquid chemical soup” transferred from a finger to the flat display surface; the “soup” includes water, amino acids, cholesterol, fatty acids, small-molecule oils, DNA and ionic salts. The structural component of fingerprints is a 3D series of ridges about 3-5 microns high. Unfortunately, the ridges are generally unaffected by coatings that control the contact angle of the fluids in the "soup". The index of refraction of the chemicals in the “soup” is generally in the range of 1.33 to 1.55 (vs. glass at 1.51); this mismatch is the reason that fingerprints are so visible.

The poster authors described using a micro-structured, UV-embossed film to break up the fingerprint structure and wick the liquids away from the source, thus hiding the fingerprints. This solution is not solely dependent upon surface chemistry; some of the properties are achieved by physical phenomena. The micro-structure is raised about 4 microns above the surface. The carrier film can be a wide variety of materials, including polyester, PET, polyurethane, acrylics, PETGs and polycarbonates. The embossed area can be in the range of 15% to 25% of the total surface area.

The result is a robust, abrasion- and fingerprint-resistant surface with a silky surface feel. Before-and-after photos above illustrate this result. – Geoff Walker, NextWindow

Friday, May 28, 2010

Samsung Demonstrates Transparent LCD

One of the panels on display in the Samsung booth was transparent. The demonstration had it set up like a store window, with products displayed behind the glass and the display presenting images on the window itself. The 46-inch prototype was remarkably clear and the displayed images were crisp and easy to read. It appeared that “white” portions of the image were transparent, and any other color was readily viewable on the window’s glass.

This probably does not have much application for the home, but could be used in a wide range of industrial, transportation, and digital signage applications. The transparency of the panel was remarkable, especially when you consider all the layers that go into an LCD device. Samsung did not offer any information on whether there are plans to commercialize the product. -- Alfred Poor,

Observations from the Last Day on the Show Floor

Thur. May 27. To close out my blogging on Display Week, I’ll just be providing a short list of assorted observations and thoughts from Thursday. It was quite an intense day, but a good one on many levels.

• I was fortunate to be able to provide a welcome to the Market Focus seminar on touch interfaces, and hung around for a few of the talks. There is so much energy going on around advanced interfaces, and this particular group was very highly attuned to the product design and demand side. It was a good reminder that a technology alone does not lead to a success, but when integrated into a product done well, it can be magic.
• On the exhibit floor, it was hard not to run across multiple approaches towards 3D displays. With the crowds thinning a bit, I managed to notice that I had skipped past a prominent demonstration by 3M with an autostereoscopic design for handheld devices. The gamers in my family would certainly appreciate a glasses-free 3D image of this quality on their handheld devices.
• Progress on epaper continues at a torrid pace. E Ink, the de facto leader in the field, has set the bar higher with some epaper prototypes with an astounding 55% reflectivity. This gives new meaning to “paperlike” with reflectivities this high. Immensely impressive were some challengers, though, and in particular the Qualcomm Mirasol display, showing very good color and video rate operation. The Mirasol displays were high quality, and I could imagine this device in a range of products quite soon. At a bit earlier stage, but still very impressive, is the Liquavista electrowetting displays, showing excellent color and video response for a reflective device.
• I got to release some tension at the Corning booth, where the helpful staff allowed me to smash some standard glass plates, and then watched my frustration while trying to break a piece of their Gorilla Glass product. Very impressive, and I was amazed I could not break the glass – I’ll have to bring my own tools next time.
• Flexible displays continued on their remarkable advance. Some impressive examples of displays with flexible backplanes (silicon, metal oxides, organics) and flexible frontplanes (OLED, epaper, and liquid crystal) were visible in both the symposium sessions and on the exhibit floor.
• There was excellent press coverage at the meeting, with national media, local television and newspapers, and bloggers bringing the news from SID to the outside world.
• Solid-state lighting made a strong debt at SID this year. For me, I enjoyed Thursday’s session on OLED lighting, learning about recent advances that are vital in taking this technology out of the laboratory and into products. UDC’s report of a white pixel structure with efficacy over 100 lm/W was particularly impressive.
• Today’s “I wonder how they did that?” moment was in the Samsung booth, with its transparent LCD. This demo looked very much like a window, until an electronic image scrolled across the screen and made it clear that this was a liquid-crystal display, and not a pane of window glass. Very cool.
• To wrap up the day, I enjoyed a couple hours wandering around the poster sessions, and engaging many authors presenting their work. This one-on-one interaction is a way to engage in a direct and personal way with authors, and gain insights into work in a manner that is just not possible by simply listening to an oral presentation.

Overall, a highly satisfying day, and a good lead-in into the final day of SID on Friday.

-- Paul Drzaic, Drzaic Consulting Services, Past President, SID

E-Paper and Display Week: What a Difference a Year Makes

As I was walking the convention floor on Thursday, I couldn’t help comparing the state of Display Week, and of the e-paper industry, against where they were a year ago in San Antonio. By all measures, the conference as a whole has bounced back, with attendance up nearly 100% over last year. E-paper exhibitors like Liquavista and Bridgestone, who were completely absent from last year’s show, are back this year with impressive improvements in the performance of their prototypes. Liquavista was demonstrating fully functional active-matrix color electrowetting demonstrators, and Bridgestone had a sample of its AeroBee tablet, using its QR-LPD particle-based display technology. Meanwhile, mainstays like E Ink (now a division of TFT manufacturer Prime View International following a December acquisition), LG Display, and Samsung continued to show ever more impressive flexible and glass e-paper panels, with features like in-cell touch and improved color rendition. It’s certainly reassuring to see that so many e-paper companies and technologies have weathered the economic storm and are back in growth mode. --- Robert Zehner, E Ink

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Synthetic 3D Photo Frame

Almost all stereoscopic displays – such as 3DTVs – share one limitation. Even though you can see which objects are closer to you in the image than others, you still can’t peek around them to see what’s behind. To do this requires that the display support “motion parallax”, which means that the views change when you move your head. There are some volumetric and holographic displays that can do this, but your typical stereoscopic display only has one image available for each eye.

That’s not the case with the 3D LCD photo frame shown by Newsight Japan at SID 2010. You can start with a two-view stereoscopic image (in MPO data format), or even with just a 2D single view from a standard digital camera (in JPEG format). The image is then processed by a program on a PC that extracts the depth information from the image data. Using this information, it creates a total of five separate images. You can then display the processed image on the photo frame. The lenticular lens design makes it auto-stereoscopic, so no special glasses are required. And when you move your head to one side or another, you can “see around” objects in the front of the image and see what’s behind them.

The next generation of the photo frame will have the conversion software contained in the controller, so that it can automatically convert original 2D and 3D images. And a third generation model is planned with telecommunications features so that the panel can send and receive images from other panels. --Alfred Poor,

The Single Cable Monitor

If you visited the 3M exhibit at SID 2010 this year, you might have spotted a fairly typical 18.5-inch computer monitor attached to a typical notebook computer. You might have thought that there was nothing remarkable about the arrangement until you started counting the cables connected to the monitor; there was just one. And on closer inspection, you would have found that the cable was a simple USB cable. Just a moment; where’s the power cable?

The monitor was in fact a demonstration designed to show off the energy conserving attributes of 3M’s Vikuiti Dual Brightness Enhancement Films (DBEF). These multi-layer films are reflective polarizers that make more efficient use of the light produced by an LCD panel’s backlight. By pairing this technology with the low-energy efficiency of an LED backlight, 3M was able to drop the power requirements from about 14 Watts to just 8 Watts, which is about the requirement of a typical incandescent night light bulb. This low power draw let 3M eliminate the bulky AC-to-DC power conversion circuitry, and simply power the entire display from a USB 3.0 port. And the same USB cable can also carry the display data, eliminating the need for a graphics adapter and graphics cable. --Alfred Poor,

Looking for OLEDs

It’s been another exciting day at SID but I’m disappointed by the lack of OLED panels on the floor. After Samsung’s inspiring keynote session on OLEDs, I was looking forward to seeing two OLED panels in every booth and new recipes in every clean room. LG is displaying its 15-in. OLED and I did stumble on a 7-in. CMO AMOLED panel that is being discontinued. Rumor is both yields and demands were low.

On a more positive note, I had an interesting conversation with Janice Mahon of Universal Display and Florent Aubert of Novaled. I look forward to sharing their positive, but slightly contrasting views of where the OLED market is going. – Michael Moyer, Director of Engineering for I.E.E. in Van Nuys California.

Merck's Involvement Suggests Longevity for Epaper

In the display industry, the name Merck (officially called EMD Chemicals here in the United States) is synonymous with liquid crystal chemistry. LCD researchers and manufacturers around the world rely on Merck to supply just the right LC mixture to produce their desired display effect. According to Merck’s Mark Goulding, the company may be about to expand its reach into materials for electronic paper. In an invited symposium talk delivered as part of Wednesday afternoon’s electronic paper session, Goulding showed his promising results in synthesizing a variety of brightly-colored particles and compounding them into electrophoretic suspensions.

Particle electrophoresis is the core technology behind EPD companies like E Ink and Sipix, which to date make up the lion’s share of e-paper products on the market. Today, these companies formulate their own materials using closely-guarded recipes. In his talk, Goulding suggested that Merck is evaluating whether to offer their own electrophoretic mixtures in the market, which could open up an opportunity for other display companies to experiment with this hot new technology. This probably won’t happen tomorrow, since Merck’s formulas will need more fine-tuning before rolling out. As an example, Goulding was not ready to comment on image stability, saying only that it is an area of active research at the moment; image stability is what allows e-readers to keep their image for long periods of time without requiring a refresh, and is critical to ultra-low-power operation of EPD’s. Nonetheless, this initiative by a major display materials supplier suggests that the e-paper market segment is here to stay, and its best days are still ahead of us. -- Robert Zehner, E Ink

*For additional information on Goulding's presentation, see Paul Drzaic's symposium rundown.

Strong Showing at Display Week

Thur. May 27. Today is the last day of the exhibition at Display Week in Seattle, but the activities continue tomorrow with Symposium sessions on oxide TFTs, emerging display applications, digital signage, and much more.

By all accounts, attendance at this year's show is way up over last year's event, which took place in San Antonio during the economic downturn. The official figures aren't in yet, but the number is well above 5,000. Traffic on the exhibition floor is brisk, and there is simply a kind of buzz in the air. For more specifics, see analyst Chris Chinnock's Display Daily column on the show, "Display Week Opens with a Bang."

I was also excited to see that former PC Magazine Editor in Chief (now senior vice president for technology strategy at Ziff Brothers Investments) Michael Miller has been blogging the show, with some interesting comments about 3D in particular.

Here are two comments I heard by chance this week that sum up things nicely:

"Everything is happening with displays." -- overheard on the show floor, from a speaker who had apparently never been to SID before.

"It's a small show [compared to CES] but there is so much here!" -- overheard in the press room, from a long-time computer journalist.

--J. Donelan

Elo Continues to Innovate

Elo TouchSystems (booth 1207) is demonstrating at least two interesting touch-related innovations. The first is a result of Elo’s acquisition of Sensitive Object in January of this year. The demo of one of Sensitive Object’s capabilities consists of a large sheet of acrylic with two acoustic sensors clamped to the sheet in arbitrary locations, as shown in the photo above. The sensors are connected to a small control box. Four arbitrary spots are selected on the acrylic sheet. Each spot is tapped rapidly with a finger until the control box sounds a long tone. the four spots are “calibrated”, only those four spots respond to touch; touches anywhere else on the acrylic sheet are ignored. This is a simple illustration of how Sensitive Object’s “ReverSys” technology uses stored waveforms of acoustic signatures to identify touches at a specific location. technology isn’t restricted to use on flat surfaces; it also works on multi-dimensional objects.

The second demo is of a surface acoustic wave (SAW) monitor with zero-bezel (edge-to-edge glass) design. SAW normally has a set of reflectors around the border of the screen that prevents a bezel-less configuration. Elo has figured out how to locate the reflectors (and the piezo transducers) on the back of the glass, leaving the front of the glass as an entirely flat surface. The trick is in shaping the edge of the glass so that the acoustic waves are guided from the back of the glass around to the top surface. The current demonstration product is single-touch; Elo indicated that dual-touch might be possible in the future. --Geoff Walker, NextWindow

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Almost-live Look at Today's E-paper Symposium Sessions

Wed, May 26. Along with Dr. Rob Zehner of E Ink, I cochaired Electronic Paper II in the SID Symposium at Display Week today. I also wrote about the talks as they progressed, including my thoughts and notes, to give you a flavor of the progression of a symposium session. So I did double duty as chair and blogger.

Paper 1. First up was Mark Goulding of Merck Chemicals in the UK, discussing Merck's work on dyed polymeric microparticles for electronic paper displays. Rather than using inorganic pigments (which is typical for electrophoretic (EPD) displays such as those used by E Ink), Merck is developing polymeric particles that can serve as pigments in these displays. Colored EPD displays continue to be a challenge, and are not common in today’s marketplace.

Most color EPDs use a black and white shutter, with a color filter overlay. Goulding notes that this approach is limited in performance and may be high in cost. Rather than additive color (RGB color filter), Merck is developing subtractive color modes, similar to those used in newspapers. Stacked subtractive color EPDs should provide better color saturation and performance than single layer additive color filter approaches.

Synthetic polymer particles can be controlled in a wide variety of optical and physical parameters. For example, the zeta potential (the charge on the particle) can be controlled for both positive and negative charges, and for different colors. Uniform particle size can be produced, as a specified size with a narrow size distribution. Uniform particle sizes ranging from 220 nm to 850 nm in diameter were shown in a micrograph. Dye concentration within particles, and particle volume fraction within the EPD, can both be accurately controlled. Density and refractive index can also be dialed in, which affects transport and light scattering, respectively.

Question: How would you actually fill a cell with multiple different colors?
Answer: that’s a current area of interest.

Question : are the particles bistable? Answer: No results to share.

Overall, a good start on an interesting way to push the color EPD forward. Next steps will be to continue to improve performance, and to build some real devices. Color EPD continues to be a challenge, so success here could be quite important to the epaper field.

Paper 2. T. Yoshihara of Fujitsu presented a paper on orientation control of cholesteric LC for epaper. Fujitsu is pushing hard on stacked cholesteric liquid displays for epaper applications. Stacked layers can in principle show good brightness and saturation, though past examples of stacked color have not been particularly bright. This paper was aimed at improving contrast ratio and brightness, through improved orientation control over the cholesteric LCs. Cholesteric panels don’t require an active matrix and can be bistable, both desirable properties.

An alignment layer with rubbing is the approach. The rubbing pattern and rubbing strength are the key elements here. For the rubbing pattern, cross-rubbing (perpendicular on opposing surfaces) provided a wide set of viewing angles. Rubbing density (strength) also was critical – it’s possible to rub too weakly, or too strongly. So, an intermediate rubbing strength is optimal.

The pretilt angle (the angle of the liquid crystal director at the surface) was also examined – this property can be controlled by choice of alignment layer. Both reflectance (brightness) and contrast were considered. A pretilt angle of 10 degrees appeared to be optimal. This material also showed the widest process window in terms of fabrication.

Reflectance of up to 40% was achieved. Fujitsu has improved the appearance of its cholesteric devices (such as the Flepia information device and electronic card holder). To my eye, the photographs did show marked improvement over past efforts by this team.

Question: why is cross rubbing the best? Any physical explanation? No particular insights available from the author.

Paper 3. J.-Y. Kim of Samsung Electronics described the company's 4.8-in. active matrix PDLC display, using printed organic field effect transistors (OFETs).

SAIT (Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology) is performing R&D on printed transistors, due to the interest in flexible displays. Strong market demand for epaper makes this an important area for development. Color, video, and low cost are key areas for focus.

-A maskless TFT fab process can reduce cost by 50%, and avoiding vacuum processes reduces costs by 30%.
-Polymer dispersed liquid crystals switch between scattering and transparent state, and don’t require polarizers. They’re good for reflective and for flexible displays.
-For flexible epaper, printed OFETs have low mobility. PDLCs have had low voltage holding ratio, and the color filter layer disposition is complex.
-SAIT is using polymer semiconductors that are printable, and are compatible with flexible semiconductors.
-Newly developed polymer semiconductors – quaterthiophene and bithiazole units with mobility up to 0.5 cm2/VS. Stability data is not available - they’re filing patents!

SAIT has worked on printed OFETs since 2006, showing steady progress. In 2009, it achieved 4.8-in. on plastic, 400x240 pixels @ 100 dpi. Now using inkjet process for color epaper.

UV irradiation is complicated with color filters, since filter affects UV intensity in different colors. Exposure from the backplane side requires high aperture ratio, which complicates pixel design for good optical performance.

Color filter on array – put directly onto the TFT electrode – was described. The PDLC is built on *top* of the color filter/TFT layer – very clever. UV intensity is now extremely uniform and intense. Pixel design with high aperture ratio is achieved.

A seven step process was shown for cell fabrication. First steps were using SiOx gate dielectric over the gate metal. The semiconductor is printed. Mobility is 0.15 cm2/Vs, W/L 200 um/10 um

Gage and data line widths are 20 micron. 80 ppi display was shown – 18% reflect, 4:1 contrast.

In the Q&A, it was stated that a dyed PDLC was used as the display system. UV curing of dyed PDLC has traditionally been very difficult – how did the authors solve? Wait for the next paper!

Paper 4. Research of PDLC structures for flexible displays was presented by G.H. Lee of Samsung Electronics. There are several different PDLC modes, and this paper reviewed their characteristics for color epaper. This was a companion paper for paper 3, focusing on the PDLC portion of the display.

-PDLC great for gray scale and video response.
-Normal PDLC – scattering and transparent state. High reflectance requires
-Color PDLC with color filter, shows low reflectance (9%), but good color and contrast. How to improve?
-Dichroic PDLC can show both strong absorbance and scattering, and weak absorbance and clarity. Good contrast and high reflectance.
-Very high UV exposure is required for dye containing PDLC, since the dye absorbs UV light. The color filter on TFT approach (COA) enables high power UV exposure.
-PEN substrate for flexible substrate.
-8:1 contrast, 16% reflectance, 30 Hz driving, 4.8 inch, QVGA.
-Advanced mode: make each pixel with its own dichroic color (RGB or CMY) PDLC, without use of a color filter. RBG can’t generate a good black state. CMY system provides a brighter image with black dye PDLC.
-Black dye with color filter
-RGB- 12-16%
-CMY – 16-22%, with contrast ratio over 5:1.

-22% is very high for reflective color, using black dye with CMY color filter. Apparently there is a ten minute UV cure time, which is a little long.

Overall, this is a very promising approach for a color, video-capable epaper display.

--Paul Drzaic, Drzaic Consulting Services and Past-President SID.

LEDs vs. CCFLs

If you follow displays at all, you know that LEDs are taking over from CCFLs when it comes to backlighting. But there's still life in the old cold cathode fluorescent lamp yet. For one, many industrial and medical clients must have every piece of equipment they use certified, and changing the backlighting of a display module would very likely necessitate recertification. Consequently, a number of these companies are sticking with their CCFLs for the time being.

Second, there are shortages in some areas of the LED market, notes Scott Barney, director of sales and marketing for Endicott Research Group, which makes both LED and CCFL backlighting systems for major panel manufacturers. Some of those manufacturers are waiting for LEDs in order to roll out their next LED-backlit products, he explains.

Still, for the most part, LEDs are definitely the backlighting technology of choice for LCDs these days. And not all LEDs are facing shortages, notes Brett Shriver, director of sales for Global Lighting Technologies. It depends on the type and the package, he explains. -- J. Donelan

3D Eye Candy

Covering the SID exhibit floor is a nearly impossible task, for a couple reasons. There is just too much for one person to take in, and for the demonstrations you do see, selecting the ones to write about is difficult. So, for this entry, I’ll note two stunning examples of display technology that caught my eye, and certainly meet the definition of “eye candy” – a delicious, visual delight.

Walking onto the show floor, it doesn’t take long to see several crowds clustered around some hot offerings. Fighting through the peopole around the LG Display booth and grabbing a pair of glasses, I enjoyed the demonstration of the world’s largest 3D display. Built using LG’s IPS liquid-crystal technology and measuring a whopping 84inches, this display sports UHD resolution with 3840 x 2160 pixels. While the display can render either 2D or 3D images, the demonstration video showing 3D animation was a delight to watch. It was easy to imagine a future where I could sit down in a comfortable chair and enjoy the 3D content from the comfort of my own home on this giant screen. LG Display also showed several other 3D systems in smaller sizes that will be the basis of the next generation of 3D–ready television products.

Wandering a bit further into the exhibit, Panasonic also had an impressive set of 3D hardware. Based on its blazing-fast plasma technology, Panasonic's 65-inch 3D televisions featured full HD (1920 x 1080) for each eye. I was told that special phosphors had been developed for these displays, reducing the persistence time of the phosphor by 1/3 compared to the previous technology. These short persistence phosphors improve the response time to provide a super-crisp image. These systems were both Blu-Ray and Direct TV compatible. Movie clips and sport content were a pleasure to watch in 3D.

It was also fun to watch myself in 3D in real time--Panasonic demonstrated a Full HD professional 3D video camera, aimed at the show floor. I could duplicate many of the tricks that I see in 3D movies in real time, probably drawing too much attention to myself from passers-by. With this technology, it’s easy to imagine a time when reporters and other professionals routinely capture and transmit 3D content, to be broadcast to 3D-capable home televisions. Once this sort of capability becomes routine, consumer-based systems are likely to follow.

All in all, the 3D capabilities shown by LG Display, Panasonic, and a number of other companies are quite impressive. Making sure that future television purchases are 3D-ready will increasingly become a wise choice for consumers.

--Paul Drzaic, Drzaic Consulting Services and Past-President, SID

Mission-Critical OLEDs

Tue. May 24. It’s great to be back to my favorite symposium. As always, my first order of business is to see the latest virtual imaging microdisplays from eMagin. Today I saw the fruits of folks like Dr. Amal Ghosh, Olivier Prache, and so many others, and it was good! Congratulations to founder Gary Jones and all the dedicated people of eMagin for carving out a niche in the OLED market that is probably unprecedented for a USA display manufacturer.

No doubt OLED is here to stay. With more than 35 years of research and billions of dollars spent, I would expect to see OLEDs exceeding LCDs beyond the niche of micros and into the realm of direct view. Sure a direct-view OLED display is pretty; perhaps even awesome, and consumers should be screaming for this technology. But as a designer of display systems for both aircraft/ground vehicles, “pretty” doesn’t seem to show up in customer specifications or requirements. So I’m here on a mission to see how things stack up for direct-view OLEDs.

-- Michael Moyer, Director of Engineering for IEE in Van Nuys, CA

Keynotes from Samsung, Boeing, Microsoft Deliver Promise and Excitement


It’s a very good sign when the keynote addresses at Display Week incorporate all of the elements that you want to see in the opening talks at a conference. Provocative, visionary, inspiring, and just plain cool are some of the adjectives I’d use for the keynote addresses I saw at the Display Week opening session on Tuesday.

Dr. S.S. Kim of Samsung Mobile Displays led off the trio of keynotes by going back to the past. He noted that in 2005, the display industry was ripe for a revolution, and that Dr. S.W. Lee of Samsung Displays predicted that 200M LCD TVs would be sold by 2010. At the time, that was an astounding prediction, but the industry rallied around LCD TVs, so that the 100M-unit target was met in 2008, two years early. Dr. Kim provided some evidence that the industry is ready for yet another revolution, and that OLED display technologies can provide yet another wave of massive growth. Among Dr. Kim’s predictions were that OLED displays would achieve majority market share in mobile devices by 2015, with over 600M units planned for shipment. Interestingly, Dr. Kim stated that even 1B units of OLED display shipments are possible by this date.

While hitting this target would be quite an achievement, Dr. Kim also asserted that OLED displays could become the dominant technology in premium TV products. Samsung is investing serious money (over US$2B) in Generation 5.5 plants for AMOLED displays, and the company has a goal of developing and building Gen 8 AMOLED plants. He ended his talk with the statement that “markets are created, not forecast”, and certainly provided evidence that the industry is betting heavily on creating a significant OLED display market.

The next keynote of Mike Sinnett of Boeing provided both a look forward and a look back at displays in avionics. Mr. Sinnett showed some entertaining and somewhat unsettling pictures of what the cockpits looked like in the earliest airplanes, and illustrated how the evolution of technology led to more and more sophistication and complexity in the cockpit. The Boeing 747-200, for example, had over one thousand lights, gauges, and switches that needed to be monitored and operated by the flight crew.

The advent of reliable, large format electronic displays went a long way towards simplifying aircraft flying and operation, and in improving safety for passengers and crew. Through the judicious use of well-designed displays and interfaces, fewer crew are needed to safely operate an airplane, flight efficiency is improved, and overall safety enhanced. Mr. Sinnett provided a compelling picture of how the implementation of advanced display technologies has enhanced the capabilities of the flight crew, with effects benefiting crew and passengers alike.

Mr. Steve Bathiche of Microsoft Corporation provided the final keynote address. He showed a number of fascinating videos of interactive surface technologies under development in his laboratory. He drove home the idea that a display that can look out and interact with its environment can provide additional layers of functionality and interaction compared to simple displays. We saw videos of virtual cloths being picked up by a user, which could be stretched, folded, or torn, using natural hand gestures. We saw displays that track the position of users, and then provide a custom image to a particular user, with a different image visible to a different viewer of the same display. Virtual objects on the screen could be tossed, turned, or moved around, and if they bumped into other, the virtual objects responded in a very natural way. Overall, the goal for the interactive display is that the “display has to see and understand you (the user).” We saw some pretty amazing examples of new interfaces that are destined to enrich the experience of users, and will likely drive new applications.

All in all, a very satisfying morning indeed.

-- Paul Drzaic, Drzaic Consulting Services, Past-President SID

Battery Technology May Not Keep Up with E-Reader Technology

At the DisplaySearch Business Conference, which took place as part of SID on Monday, Jim Cathey, Vice President of Business Development from Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, compared the current state of the e-reader market to what his company previously experienced in the handset market: as readers evolve from monochrome, static page viewers to add color, video and interactivity, the power demands of the device will skyrocket, while battery technology will continue to improve by a meager 3% to 5% per year. “When we look at the market for e-readers,” said Cathey, “we see history repeating itself.” He posits that the only way to break this cycle is by adopting reflective display technologies with ultra-low static power consumption, like Qualcomm’s Mirasol MEMS display, to enable color video on-demand with weeks of battery life between charges. Further, Cathey believes that long battery life will increase average revenue per user, or “ARPU”, the key measure of success for mobile network operators. The reasoning is simple enough; an e-reader with a dead battery can’t be delivering advertising impressions to its owner. -- Robert Zehner, E Ink Corp.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

RPO Making Steady Progress

Tuesday May 24. RPO (booth 125) continues to make steady progress in evolving its Digital Waveguide Touch infrared touch-screen technology towards a mass-producible product. RPO launched its technology at SID in 2007, showed improved performance in 3.5-in. touch screens at SID in 2008, and showed larger sizes (7 in.) at SID in 2009. Now at SID in 2010, RPO is showing a 13.2-in. touch screen with a profile (bezel) height of only 0.5 mm and a border width of 3-5 mm. This is becoming quite competitive with other touch technologies.

RPO’s technology combines the “touch with anything” characteristic of resistive with the high optical performance of SAW, APR, and other “clear glass” touch technologies, with the added benefit of very high resolution that provides excellent inking and handwriting recognition. RPO is focused on touch screens between 5 and 20 inches, having discovered that the only significant market for 3.5-in. touch screens (smartphones) is relatively impenetrable by a small startup.

RPO is also showing a touch screen integrated with an e-Ink electrophoretic display, side-by-side with a resistive touch-screen. The difference in optical performance is immediately noticeable. The integration with e-Ink is unique in that the waveguides are on top of the screen while the light-spreading glass is mounted under the screen. The result is total freedom from any overlay, resulting in the best possible optical performance. Qualcomm (booth 331) is also displaying an RPO touch-screen integrated on top of their Mirasol reflective display. The clear-glass nature of RPO's touch screen is optimum for a reflective display, where ambient light must travel in both directions through the touch screen.

Another interesting variation being shown in RPO’s booth is a touch screen with no waveguides on the sides (and thus zero profile height on those edges), and waveguides only on the top and bottom. This touch screen could be used in specialized devices where finger or pen movement is constrained by the device design – e.g., the device might support only horizontal gestures.

RPO still can’t talk about its customer engagements, but company representatives assured me that they expect to be in full mass production with their first major customer by early 2011. -- Geoff Walker, NextWindow

LED Backlights Gain Ground

At the Business Conference on Monday, Paul Semenza of DisplaySearch pointed out that LED backlights are rapidly gaining share in different LCD display market segments. The use of LEDs in solid state lighting is already nearing 100% adoption in the notebook display market, primarily as a result of the power saving and small form factor of LED backlights. Price premiums for LED backlit TVs are starting to shrink, partly as a result of lower prices for LEDs, as production has grown to meet demand. TV makers also are moving to edge lighting, which makes it possible to have a thinner panel while using fewer LEDs, which also helps lower the cost of the sets. -- Alfred Poor,

Interactive Displays of the Present, Future, and Far-off Future

ID Magazine had a chance to chat with Steve Bathiche after his keynote address at SID this morning. Bathiche is Director of Research, Applied Sciences Group, Entertainment and Devices Divison at Microsoft, and I'm sure the job comes with plenty of responsibility but frankly, it looks like a lot of fun.

Bathiche is involved in interactive display development at Microsoft, and his talk, "Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Next Generation of Interactive Displays" featured videos of some highly interactive displays that went way beyond multitouch. The fourth wall, in theater parlance, is what separates the audience from the world of the play, and an actor who interacts with the audience is breaking the wall. Bathiche imagines that for future interactive displays, the "wall" between the user and the plane of the display will be broken. Imagine reaching "into" your screen and "ripping up" the Word document you're frustated with. Or a child in the US and one in India standing on either side of a virtual, transparent "display wall," drawing objects together and sharing concepts in two different languages.

With regard to the here and now of interactive displays, that is represented at Microsoft by its Surface platform, for which more than 100 partners are now developing, Bathiche told ID. Still in prototype but very real is the "Wedge" a specially curved piece of plastic with a camera on one edge that works behind a transparent LC or OLED display to provide (with the help of software) new levels of immersive activity. And far off in the future, so far off that the video Bathiche showed of people strolling through environments with floating displays they could interact with, was done with "smoke and mirrors," he said, is a world of complete, seamless interactivity. These concepts, Bathiche hastened to say, were real, and he was especially pleased to speak to the SID community about them both to inspire and be inspired. "This is a dream we can make happen," he said. -- J. Donelan

A Clever Idea for Inexpensive 3D

Syndiant is a company that makes tiny LCoS imagers for use in pocket projectors. In order to demonstrate its products for potential customers, it has built some prototype projectors that are about the size of a typical smart phone. In preparation for this year’s SID exhibit, the company wanted to show a 3D display, but without spending much money on the project. One of the engineers answered the challenge.

He took two of the prototype projectors and put polarizing film in each. He then taped the two together, using some thin metal shims. The two images were precisely aligned and projected onto a silver screen. Using standard passive 3D glasses – like you wear at the local cinema – you can see a 3D image from anywhere in the room. It’s a clever demonstration, and it would be relatively easy to put both imagers in a single box, splitting the light into two streams that are then recombined optically and sent on to the screen. The result would be a pocket projector that shows 3D images that could be made for $500 or less. -- Alfred Poor,

... on the Shoulders of Greatness

Tue. May 25. Last night, 21 luminaries of the display industry were honored at SID's annual Display Week Honors and Awards dinner. Five were named as fellows, 11 received special recognition awards, and five received major prizes in the following categories: Frederic Kahn won the Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize; Dwight Berreman, the Jan Rajchman Prize; Eli Peli, the Otto Schade Prize; Philip Bos, the Slottow-Owaki Prize; and Makoto Maeda, the Lewis & Beatrice Winner Award.

For anyone who is at all interested in the history of displays or technology in general, this was a unique opportunity to hear about how history gets made. Answer: One small, unglamorous step at a time. For example, now that LCDs have been the dominant technology behind displays for several years, it's tough to imagine that the liquid-crystal research conducted by some of these gentlemen was for the most part unsung, and often under-funded as well.

Microsoft Director of Research Steve Bathiche (one of today's key note presenters), who was on hand at last night's ceremony, summed up the impact of these display scientists perfectly: "These are the shoulders on which we all stand today."

Note: If you would like to own a real, working piece of display history, you can: the HP 12c business calculator, introduced in 1981 and based on technology that Kahn helped develop, is still sold today. Price: about $70 from the online retailer of your choice.

-- J. Donelan

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday seminars and applications tutorials

Mon. May 24. The Olympic Mountain Range is clearly visible from downtown Seattle this morning, and it's an impressive sight.

Seminars taking place in the convention center today include "Emerging Blue-Phase LCDs" by Shin-Tson Wu of the University of Central Florida, "AMOLED Technology for TV Application" by Eric Forsythe of the Army Research Laboratory, and "Stereoscopic Displays" by Michael Robinson of RealD. These are all particularly hot areas in displays right now.

Also getting underway this morning are the Applications Tutorials on touch, flex, general lighting, pico projectors, and more.

Seminars and tutorials start at 8:30 and run to 5:00.

Touch Technologies Short Course

Mon. May 24. I had the chance to sit in on part of Geoff Walker's short course on "The Fundamentals of Touch Technologies and Applications" yesterday. Geoff is Marketing Evangelist and Industry Guru (yup, that's his actual title) for NextWindow, and an occasional writer and guest editor for Information Display.

The room was filled for Geoff's fascinating, fast-paced, and information-packed session, which covered both mainstream and emerging touch technologies. Geoff explained how each technology worked--from analog resistive to optical waveguide infrared and much more--and discussed the pros and cons of each, as well as which companies are pursuing which technologies. The idea to keep in mind, he stated more than once during the presentation, is that "there is no perfect touch technology."

If you'd like to see what companies the world over are doing to meet the above challenge, come to Display Week 2010's exhibition, which opens Tuesday, May 25. During his presentation, Geoff noted that 71 exhibitors with some connection to the touch industry will be on hand at Display Week this year. "This is THE place to go for touch. It's amazing," he said.

--J. Donelan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Transparent Displays

Transparent Displays belong to that category of products that seem more useful and compelling when you actually see them than when you hear or read about them. You will have a chance to do so at Display Week's exhibition, which starts Tuesday, May 25, and runs through Thursday, May 28.
According to SuperImaging, whose demo product appears here and which will be showing transparent displays at SID, some of the uses for this technology are store window displays, automotive windshield displays, and home theaters.

Come see (through) them for yourself.

Display Week Kicks Off with Short Courses

Outside in Seattle, it's cool and slightly cloudy; inside the Washington State Convention Center, things are begininning to heat up as SID's well-known short courses begin.

This morning, Norbert Fruehauf of the University of Stuttgart is explaining active-matrix devices and applications and Pochi Yeh of the University of California Santa Barbara is discussing the fundamentals of display optics. After lunch, Michael Weaver and Raymond Chi Yuen Kwong of Universal Display Corporation will explain OLED fundamentals and NextWindow's Geoff Walker will offer instruction on touch technology and applications.

These short courses are an invaluable way to get up to speed on an area of display technology you're unfamiliar with, or to gain deeper knowledge of an area you already know.

--J. Donelan

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Display Week Updates Starting May 23 2010

Information Display's roving reporters will be posting here all during Display Week, with highlights and updates from the symposia, the show floor, and more!