Finding Balance When Commitments Heat Up

Finding Balance When Commitments Heat Up

by Stephen Atwood

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It’s mid-summer up here in North America and for most of us the pull of family and outdoor activities competes with the necessities of our professional activities.  While the pressure of getting new products released and growing your business continues, the summer brings that extra challenge of making time for recreation, scheduling family vacations and taking advantage of those fleeting moments when you really can’t convince yourself that it’s “just as well” to be locked inside working.

Finding the right balance is not easy.  Work deadlines loom, opportunities are fleeting, and there is always another problem to solve.  However, I believe we are all better off when we can walk away for a while to recharge and enjoy the many other things life has to offer.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did start working on this editorial from my campsite at a nearby lake, but I did not finish it there.  After I got about half way through, I took my own advice and went swimming and fishing for the rest of the day.  The editorial and the rest of our July/August articles were still there when I got back from the lake, and then it was time to put them into a great issue for you to enjoy.

We begin the July/August issue with the subject of user interfaces.  Everyone knows what they are, what they like about them, and what they don’t.  Despite lots of research and conceptual demonstrations, as well as some intriguing Hollywood fabrications, the ways that all of us interact with our computing devices has not changed much in many years.  Yes, touch and recently multi-touch interfaces have become more mainstream, but it all still involves our hands or fingers and a physical contact with some button, mouse, or flat surface.  While there have been some promising demonstrations of late using speech, head/eye tracking, and gesture detection, most have involved specialized platforms that are a long way from mainstream adoption.  Earlier this year, I was privileged to attend a one-day SID conference in San Jose and hear Achintya Bhowmik, the Director of Perceptual Computing at Intel Corporation, talk about his work at Intel to bring these types of new interaction paradigms to modern commercial computing platforms.  We asked Dr. Bhowmik to expand on his talk and develop a Frontline Technology article providing specifics on how these new interface paradigms work and what the next steps would be to implement them on the commercial platforms we all utilize today.  The result is our feature article, “Natural and Intuitive User Interfaces with Perceptual Computing Technologies.”  I’m sure you will be as excited with the prospects of this work from the Intel team as I am.

A Growing Market Segment

While somewhat new to the scene of portable computing devices, tablets have quickly grown to fill a critical market segment.  They enable lots of uses due to their screen sizes that are larger than smartphones and their much lighter weight and better battery life than laptops.  Our guest editor this month is Russel Martin from Qualcomm.  Russel has been a widely respected colleague in the display industry for many years and is currently the director for sensor technology at Qualcomm.  Russel has arranged for two great articles for us and he sets the stage for them in his Guest Editorial, “Tablets’ High Performance Sends Them Off to Work.”  The first Frontline Technology article,“Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out,” is written by well-known author and technology analyst Raymond M. Soneira.  It provides a detailed and thorough review of the display performance of four representative and commercially available tablet devices.  Our second Frontline Technology article addresses the exciting potential of using commercially available tablets for medical imaging and diagnostics work.  Author Aldo Badano and his colleagues at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have conducted some very detailed studies into the optical performance of various tablet displays to determine which ones can produce performance equivalent to that of traditional medical imaging displays.  Not only are the outcomes of this work somewhat surprising, but I learned a lot about the relevance of certain image-quality metrics and how they can be applied for this type of analysis.  As Russel notes in his editorial, “When access to information is the primary goal of an information appliance, then tablets are the natural choice.”  Using tables to provide faster and more convenient access to medical imaging data, especially in non-hospital field settings, could really make an impact.

From Venture Capital to Optical Bonding, and Beyond

We’ve all heard the story:  Guy with a great idea starts a small company in his basement (or garage for the Apple lovers).  After a few years his invention succeeds beyond all belief and a large company pays him an unfathomable amount of money to commercialize the idea.  Or, he builds his own company and becomes one of the dozen or so richest people in the world.  Yes, it does happen.

I have had a few opportunities to work in the start-up company and venture-capital world.  It’s a great place, where ups and downs come like water from the tap and 9 out of 10 endeavors fail before anyone even knows what they were all about.  Well, one of our own SID executive team members, Helge Seetzen, is also the CEO of a company that commercializes early-stage technologies.  He’s been at the helm of start-ups as a co-founder and now he helps guide start-up ventures through all the perils of the process.  We asked and Helge graciously agreed to share his insights and experiences in a four-part series of articles focused on successful strategies for creating, funding, and growing new technologies ventures.  The series begins this month with the first part titled simply “Start-up Fundamentals”.

Another subject we frequently cover at Information Display is that of transparent conductors – all those niche technology innovations that are vying to take even a tiny share of the market from indium tin oxide.  Some of them are starting to mature and seeing adoption in commercial products.  It’s not yet a revolution, but in some applications such as touch screens, companies are testing these alternative materials in the marketplace. Frequent ID author and well-known industry analyst Paul Semenza has taken a look at this marketplace and catalogued the various competing technologies and their developers for us in his Display Marketplace article titled “New Transparent Conductors Take on ITO for Touch-Screen and Display Applications.”  Paul has also clarified the debate over the availability and price of indium – a subject that almost everyone seems to have an opinion on.  I think you will enjoy his concise analysis of this technology.

Right before we went to press, we heard from another analyst colleague, Jennifer Colegrove, who has also been collecting data on the transparent-conductors marketplace.  Jennifer has done her own analysis on what the future revenue market might look like for some of the key competitors in this newly developing arena.  We felt compelled to include her analysis as well, as a complement to what we had already planned, and therefore I hope you’ll enjoy her column, “ITO Replacement Market Will Grow to $4 Billion by 2020.”

Many of you have seen displays with optical bonding used in various ruggedized or direct-sunlight applications.  This approach can help reduce reflections by eliminating the extra refraction indices between the face of the display and the safety panel or touch screen in the system.  Most companies use processes that involve liquid chemistries such as urethanes, epoxies, or silicone gels.  These processes are messy and hard to optimize.  This month, author Birendra Bahadur and his team from Rockwell Collins describe for us their success in commercializing a process for bonding with pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs).  In his article titled “Direct-Dry-Film Optical Bonding: Finding New Applications,” Birendra explains how this method improves over the existing processes and which applications are best suited for this approach.

It was several months ago when I first suggested to managing editor Jenny Donelan that we needed a comprehensive overview of the business of displays in the various regions of the world.  I was interested in seeing an analysis of the general dynamics of the regions, how the various customer markets work, and how the flow of products and technology differs from region to region.  To get started, we chose to focus on three main areas:  North America, Europe, and Asia.  The result is this first installment of our Regional Business Reviews, “The North American Display Business Environment.”  Clearly, this is a hard topic to tackle and because of the extreme diversity of marketplaces that have evolved here, there is no one simple story to tell.   However, there is a lot going on (over $143 billion in consumer sales alone) and I think you will find this a very enjoyable overview from which we will continue to mine important topics in future installments.

And so, as we bring this issue of Information Display to a close, we also have our regular SID News and Industry News features also written by Jenny Donelan.  Jenny probably would have enjoyed a little more balance in her life this past month as she and our entire team worked hard to finish off this issue in the middle of a hot lazy summer in the northeastern part of the U.S.  We hope you enjoy this issue and we also hope you can find time to put all your professional commitments aside long enough to enjoy life and savor some of the good weather and great outdoors. •