Commentary

What Would You Do With a Roll-Up Video Display?

We know that foldable, roll-up video displays are coming sometime in that Jetsons future. Everyone with any foresight can sense that the iPad is just the first iteration of large, portable screens that ultimately we can wind up into a cylinder and pop into the raincoat pocket. Someday will handbags and satchels (yeah, we'll still want those) come with a nine-inch cylindrical case attached for everyone's "iScreen?"

Well, Sony may have the drop on Apple this time. Yesterday the company announced success in designing a 4.1-inch organic LED (OLED) full color screen that is flexible enough to be rolled around a pencil and still show video. Check out the video demo.

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The screen resolves at 121 pixels per inch and at 432x240 in 18k colors. The technology is called high performance organic thin-film transistors (OTFT). They have used a flexible substrate and circuit design that eliminates the previous need for a rigid backing for the critical chips that run the display. Sony is scheduled to demonstrate the technology live at today's Society for Information Display International Symposium in Seattle.

No word yet on when Sony projects larger examples and eventual production, but this demo makes that day seem a lot closer than it once was. The obvious use case is portable personal screens, of course. But in order for those displays to be fully flexible, engineers will have to figure out how all of the supporting interface, computing and connectivity elements can be made just as pliant. And of course we need to engage basic issues of how flexible we want a screen to be if we are also going to be interacting with it perhaps by touch. We may say we want an interactive screen that is as portable and flexible as a newspaper but we don't have to point and click on a newspaper.

But the question becomes what would marketers and media companies do with a flexible video platform? Or, what would they want to do first? Obviously wraparound out-of-home display become more versatile. Video-enhanced clothing could raise the game on logo-uncrusted T-shirts that make customers into brand ambassadors.

Here is a nightmare scenario - networked video attire. Pre-rolls running on the back of the guy walking in front of you. Imagine the years of conference panel debates on how to measure "wearable video advertising."

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