We’ve all seen them in movies; those highly futuristic and versatile computer graphics that kind of come out of nowhere – apparently unattached to any type of object – and appearing to float in the air as if by magic. For those of you that have seen the dystopian future flick, The Hunger Games, you might recall the high-tech computer room through which staff at The Capitol exerted ruthless control over The Games’ participants? Although the creation and telepathic transportation of a super carnivorous tiger is not yet possible in the real world, as it is in the film, it does appears that transparent computers are indeed very much on the horizon.
In fact, many of the world’s top technology companies are already hard at work developing what are being hailed as the display screens of the future. Transparent, flexible materials and interfaces are the next big thing, and here are some of the main developments that could be set to take the communication, entertainment and gaming industries by storm.
One company that is leading the field in the development of transparent display screens is Hewlett Packard. This year, it was successful in obtaining a US patent for its new, completely transparent screen technology. The company claims its new system would create transparent screens that would enable users to see both the graphics of the computer and the backdrop of the scenery behind the device. Hewlett Packard will achieve this through using light reflective slats in order to display images produced by a computer onto a transparent screen, also allowing light from behind the screen to penetrate through.
The electronics giant cites possible uses for its transparent screens, including showing navigation data on car windscreens. This could potentially revolutionise in-car infotainment systems. It would certainly be an exciting prospect… A satellite navigation system that automatically transpired itself onto your windscreen could have all kinds of benefits. In fact, it could well mean that insurance premiums would go down rather than up; negating the need for the traditionally distracting and interactive satellite navigation devices could be an appealing safety feature that could decrease the risk of road accidents.
Fujitsu is another company that is developing new display screen technology. It is currently working with Japanese mobile network provider, DoCoMo, to produce a prototype Smartphone that has a doubled-sized transparent LED screen. The new Smartphone has touch sensors on both sides of its screen, and can be touched and activated simultaneously. This creates progressive, multi-touch technology that could completely overhaul the way we use these devices.
Samsung is also a contender in the race to produce the next generation of display screens. Its YOUM LED displays use transparent film instead of glass to create a flexible and unbreakable screen. The new bendy material is also considerably thinner and lighter than traditional, non-flexible LED displays. The South Korean electronics company has said it is on schedule to release its first flexible YOUM device by 2014.
LG is going a step further. The electronics company is currently researching the development of a 60 inch transparent screen that can also be bent. Flexible and transparent LED screens have previously only been possible in devices measuring up to a few inches across. However, LG wants to be the first manufacturer to take this technology to new, larger levels. If the company is successful, this could signify the start of a major technology revolution; it is currently investigating possible uses for large flexible LED screens, including shopping windows, bus station overlays and large advertising billboards.
An important material in the quest for bendy screens is a new invention called Willow Glass. Developed by a specialist glass manufacturer in the USA, Willow Glass is just 0.05 mm thick – a significant reduction when compared with the current 0.2 mm display screens. This wafer thin and flexible glass can literally be bent and wrapped around an object. The possibilities for Willow Glass are seemingly endless; it is already being tipped as a replacement for the glass used in mobile devices, suggesting that we may soon see wafer thin and bendy mobile phones.
One thing is for sure, flexible and transparent glass has the potential to overhaul many consumer industries. Glass innovation is a huge business and we are sure to see an influx of weird and wonderful bendy phones and TVs once the technology has been well and truly cracked.