Monday, December 19, 2011

Samsung's flexible, see-through screen technology

Earlier this month, I saw this on the news:


It is Samsung Flexible AMOLED concept being used as an e-reader, a camera, a video chat system, and an interpreter that being reported in news earlier this month. Certainly, the clip make the technology really amazing and I'm sure some people would jump on buying the first products that gonna use this technology. To tell you the truth, I'm amazing by this technology too. However, it took me less than a minute to think of a whole bunch of questions and concern about the 'practicality' of this technology on the proposed usage as it is widely reported in news stories - on tablet or smartphone. It got me to recite one of the memorable line in the movie Jurassic Park that I remember all these years: 'Just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should!'

There are two aspects about this technology that I wanna talk about: Transparency and flexibility.

It has been the development trend of consumer tech products in the past decades that products are getting more powerful, lighter, smaller and stay affordable. However, the progress has been slowed down by many factors, one thing is the cost of producing certain parts of the product which would make certain good products unprofitable in the market, thus they aren't being produced. Another key issue that has been dragging the advancement of consumer tech product is the battery issue. That's why Apple has been amazing in the evolution of its products that they became powerful but were still able to stay the same length of battery life if not longer. I think battery technology is certainly lacked behind the development of the rest of other aspects of tech products. Going back to this new technology, you can make the screen as thin as light and as transparent all you want. What about the battery? We don't know how much energy this display will consume, even if it is 50% or more energy efficient, where do you put the battery with the transparent display? At the edge of the screen? Cuz, if the display is thin, transparent and flexible, but the other 'things' including the battery aren't, what is the point of make such ugly hybrid product? I mean...like roll the display around a solid rod of battery with chipset and other stuff like camera lens, unroll it when we use it. Is that the concept? I just can't imagine that being very consumer-friendly and cool-looking!

In addition, the flexibility of this display will not be much useful if the other parts are not flexible, again the battery, chipset, lens, sensor, etc. We consumer can accept things getting small and light, but still need a lot of education on accepting tech products being flexible, particularly on the durability part. We would think that bending such product will damage it. We have been told long enough of not bending our credit card, sim card, SD card, or other cards that using NPC technology. How would we be convinced to fold our new mobile phone or tablet even it is shown to be ok to do so? It will take time.

Secondly, about the transparency of the screen. It looks like a good concept, but not for phone or tablet! Why? Because we took our phone and tablet on the go mostly. We don't just put them on the table with a white background when we use it. Namely, we will always able to see other color in the background while we are using the transparent display. Can you imagine how 'messy' and 'eye-hurting' to look at things on the screen and behind the screen as the same time? I'm not talking about augmented reality which could be useful. But, while we are reading a book, playing a game, looking at pictures, etc. We don't wanna see other 'visual noise'! Thus, I would think that such new transparent display technology would be more practical to be on glasses or helmet screens or windshield in cars as 'supplementary' tool to provide information 90% of the time, rather than taking over the need of transparency of the screen. For instances, this new display technology can help us using augmented reality, as we can see some supporting information through our glasses, like seeing the prices of houses, profile of a person walking towards you, etc. Otherwise, the transparent property of this display is not much useful. Why I mentioned 90% of the time? The only 10% time that I think this technology will be great to be used on helmet or windshield is when this is combined with camera to provide an alternative view to help us understanding our surrounding when we are visually blocked somehow, like in fog, darkness, or else. If our car has infrared camera on, then we can see through the fog or darkness by displaying objects on the new display when we are driving or flying, that would be very helpful!

Thirdly, the only thing that this new display technology that I think is relatively practical is the thinness of the display. It means that I can be mounted on a thinner body to reduce the thinness of the phone or tablet overall. Since the body itself is not flexible, the display alone being flexible is no-use. In fact, there is only so thin our phone and tablet should be, particularly our phone. It is too uncomfortable to hold a phone as thin as a credit card. For example, we worry that we may drop it and fall into the crack on a sidewalk or in a pool of dirt water, or the product may overheat or something. Most of us do feel that we need 'something' to hold on to. So, I guess there is only so thin that a mobile phone that we 'should' make. As a side-track issue, the issue of earphone is also a concern for now. If the jack of earphone is thicker than the phone itself, it would be quite awkward! Though wireless headset exists, it is still not as good as the wired one in terms of sound quality, battery, and comfort issue, etc. On the tablet side, I guess that it is more practical to accept thinner model, even if it is as thin as credit card, that should be fine, because of the way that we hold our tablet.

Well, that's my brief take on this technology. I'm sure there are other ways to use this display technology more efficiently than on mobile phone and tablet, it will be up to the genius and the market to decide. However, I really doubt that we will see such products in use on phone or tablet in 2012 as some reports suggested, cuz other issues that I mentioned above woulds till take a lot of works to do before the product become financially feasible to make. Let's wait and see.

1 comment:

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