Science //

Seeing the future

Joseph Wang peers into his liquid crystal ball to give you a glimpse of the future of display technology.

Augmented reality glasses

Within the next few years

How do I get onto the Quad roof? Where is the acoustic sweet spot in the Seymour Centre? Vegeta, what does the scouter say about his power level? These questions will finally be answered when companies begin to release these new technologically-enhanced glasses. The most prominent of these is Google’s ‘Project Glass’, which was officially announced in April. Google’s initial prototypes feature a “clear display that sits above the eye.” A demo video released online shows the glasses integrating voice command support, giving visual cues like directions and alerts (eg. weather, calendar, messages), and even supporting video chat. In February The New York Times reported that the product would be released by the end of the year, but Google has said that this is unlikely.


Flexible displays

Estimated 2012

Broken screens will soon be a thing of the past with the introduction of film-based bendy displays. Samsung is set to release their flexible AMOLED displays, dubbed ‘Youm’, sometime this year, with mass production expected to begin this quarter. These are claimed to be “thinner, lighter and unbreakable” and could find potential uses in smartphones and tablets. LG is also set to launch their flexible products soon, with a 6-inch e-paper display that can bend up to 40 degrees, ready to release in e-readers as early as this month.


Ultra Definition Televisions

Late 2012 onwards

Not satisfied with “Full HD” 1080p televisions? Fear not, for the next bump  in the resolution of your home TV is coming soon – that is, if you have the space. LG is planning to introduce its new 84-inch 3D UDTV (Ultra Definition Television) in the second half of this year, sporting a “4K” resolution of 3840 x 2160 – that is four times the picture detail of Full HD. The uses of this at the moment are still questionable, however, with broadcast TV and Blu-ray both currently limited to 1080p.


Backlit and colour e-paper

Just announced/Late 2012

In recent years, ‘electronic paper’ displays have been popularised by e-book readers, including the Amazon Kindle. These reflect light like normal paper, rather than emitting light like a conventional digital display, resulting in much better outdoor visibility. One current limitation of e-paper is the inability to light up the screen for reading in the dark. This may soon change though, as a rumoured front-lit ‘E Ink’ screen could arrive in a Kindle or Nook later this year. The current generation of black and white e-paper displays may also be nearing an end, with colour e-paper displays (E Ink Triton, Mirasol) beginning to gain traction over the next few years.


Holographic displays


From the early beginning of science fiction, projected images have long been anticipated as a means of communication and interaction. This vision is one step closer to commercial reality, with Microsoft working on ‘Vermeer’ – a ‘touchable’ 360-degree holographic display. Like the mirascope optical illusion toy, it uses parabolic reflectors to project a small, floating 3D image in mid-air. In conjunction with an infrared sensor or Microsoft’s Kinect, users can interact with the image by touching it. A demo video shows a person using their fingers to knock over a virtual tower of blocks and spin a projection of Earth. This research is still in development and it’s unlikely that we’ll see a finished product soon, but who knows – one day you might be able to call in remotely to that Jedi Council meeting.


Joseph Wang is on Twitter