Developments in flexible displays are fuelling a future where foldable e-papers take the place of magazines and bendable electronic screens wrap themselves around lampposts. But is this a future we all want?
Sony’s e-paper prototype, shown at a recent sneaky peak in Tokyo, is the latest development in flexi-displays. And although 3D was the main focus of the event’s technology, this little product caught our eye.
E-readers are on the rise, but they’re currently limited to the solid structure of a hardback book, rather than the flexible embodiment of the everyday newspaper. This is where e-paper comes in.
Great progress in flexible tech
Sony’s latest effort uses a plastic material that allows it to be bent and rolled, but also means that it’s very difficult to break. So although you might not be able to swat a fly with your iPad, these advances in flexi tech could rival the multipurpose functionality of the humble magazine.
There are a number of manufacturers dabbling in flexi-display, with LG’s newspaper-sized screen looking very promising earlier in the year. Plus, Sony previously boasted its thinnest display yet (just 80 microns) that could also be rolled around a pencil (pictured).
It’s developments in organic light emitting diode (OLED) TV technology that’s fuelling the flexible charge. Since the OLED pixels emit their own light, there’s no need for a backlight, thus allowing them to be layered onto plastic.
Do we want a bendy revolution?
But there’s a couple of things holding back the immediacy of Harry Potter-style newspapers and Blade Runner-esque advertising – such as flexible batteries to power them. This means the technology’s two or three years off, but imagine when the tech goes mainstream – it could revolutionise the way we consume information.
Or are we more than content with the bulkiness of the iPad, rather than a flexible, rollable and foldable paper display? Is there actually a need for interactive displays in school books, when we can simply sit pupils in front of computer screens?
The sci-fi geek in me loves this type of futuristic technology (automatic doors were first seen on Star Trek, don’t you know) so in a way I can’t wait to fold up my book/paper/video player and put it in my wallet. But I can see advertisers having a field day festooning our streets with moving ads.