Mining the Vast Wealth of Display Week

Mining the Vast Wealth of Display Week

by Stephen P. Atwood

Welcome to our annual Display Week review issue.  The events at this year’s show formed a rich tapestry of new and exciting technological discoveries, as you no doubt remember if you were with us in San Francisco.  If you missed the show, then settle in and read all about it here.  Each year, this pivotal gathering of the display industry attracts the best and brightest (pun intended) of the industry and its member companies.  There is no better place to both learn from the best and contribute what you know to educate others.  People come to Display Week for many reasons, including the technical presentations, the seminars, the short courses, and the business conferences, but above all, everyone comes to see the great exhibits.  Our cover stories this month are the Best-in-Show and I-Zone awards, which are conveyed each year to the companies deemed by the awards committees to have created the best exhibits in all three booth-size categories and within the I-Zone.  This year the field was especially great and the choices really hard, but I think the committees did an excellent job capturing the most innovative and informative exhibits.  Our own Jenny Donelan has compiled the Best-in-Show results for you, and roving reporters Steve Sechrist and Ken Werner describe the I-Zone award.

In order to cover the vast array of content and happenings that is Display Week, we recruit an annual team of reporters to help us.  This year, our group of talented and highly experienced reporters consisted of Achin Bhowmik and Jyrki Kimmel, as well as Steve and Ken.  They spent their days combing through the vast amount of new exhibits and presentations to bring you the most important highlights of the week.  I am very grateful and wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to them all for their hard work.

We lead off our Display Week review coverage with Steve’s survey of TVs,“Enter the Feature-Driven Market.”  As you can probably guess from this title, with overall revenues in decline, set makers are desperately searching for features that will drive high-value purchasing decisions, and that desire is generating great technological advancements, especially in areas such as high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut (including quantum-dot enhancements), and ultra-high definition (UHD).  While it is hard to know if consumers will really monetize the difference in performance these features bring, they surely will be impressed by the latest advancements. If you were at the exhibition you cannot have missed the outstanding display of the 77-in. OLED TV panel from LG and the 65-in. UHD “Black Crystal” LCD TV from Samsung.  These and other worthy items are highlighted in Steve’s review article for your enjoyment.

I think many attendees will remember the exciting breakthrough shown this year by E Ink using four different colors within separate microcapsules to produce an almost full-color-range electrophoretic display (EPD).  This was an exciting development that I know has been many years in the making.  It also can open up many new applications for EPDs.  This and a number of other headlines, including advances in OLED materials, quantum dots (QDs), glass (yes glass), and light guides can be found in
Ken Werner’s review article appropriately titled “Four Materials Stories from Display Week 2016.”

Our next offering, “Better Form, Lower Power” by Jyrki Kimmel, covers the world of mobile and flexible displays.  I can remember the days when we thought this category was more about novelty than substance, but we all know how much a part of our lives mobile displays have become.  And it isn’t just about displays but rather how they are being developed to integrate optical and electrical sensing for a wide range of expanded interaction paradigms.  Low power, enhanced optics, unique form factors, and enhanced durability were all hallmarks of this year’s demonstrations.  However, what continues to elude us are the truly foldable and rollable displays of our imagination.  There were good examples of these to be seen, but they were still not ready to go beyond the world of prototypes.  Someday, yes, it will happen, but what form and function they will take is yet to be seen.

Achin Bhowmik is not just an enthusiast of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR); he’s an active participant in its creation through his leadership role at Intel and as special-topic program chair for the SID Symposium.  So, he was uniquely qualified to provide us with a comprehensive survey in his contribution titled “Advances in Augmented- and Virtual- Reality Technologies and Applications.”  Achin starts off by explaining, “In recent years, virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) technologies have moved from the realms of science fiction and imagination to advanced research in academic laboratories, to product development in the industry, and, finally, into the hands of consumers in the real world.”  And so true it is with both concept products already on the market and a wealth of new building blocks rapidly coming available.  These include development platforms such as Intel’s RealSense and several commercially available head-worn displays.  I have not yet found someone to take my deposit on a Holodeck for my house, but I do expect to be seeing some really cool helmet and eyeglass systems coming to market real soon.

Within the DW exhibition, there was no shortage of cool demos in the I-Zone and that included a completely new concept for something called a “Carbon-Nanotube Vertical Organic Light-Emitting Transistor” (CN-VOLET).  Maybe you do not know what that is?  Neither did I until I saw it.  Steve Sechrist and Ken Werner explain it in the I-Zone review  “nVerpix Takes Best Prototype Honors in the I-Zone.”  The headline is in the title but the story includes Steve’s take on many additional worthwhile I-Zone demos.

Also at the show this year was frequent contributor and market expert Paul Semenza, who gives us this month’s Display Marketplace feature, “Flexible Displays Require Flexible Electronics.”  As the title suggests, Paul expands on my earlier comment about the lack of truly flexible display products by discussing the role flexible electronics will need to play to make these products a reality.  We have covered a number of different aspects of flexible electronics in ID in recent years, and, clearly, exciting progress is being made.  But as Paul explains, there is much more work to do in the areas of materials and process.  Meanwhile, he shows us some great examples from DW 2016 of how these concepts are coming to fruition.

One very important aspect of flexible electronics is the actual materials chosen to fabricate the semiconductors, and there has been no shortage of research in this area in recent years.  We have published several articles on oxide TFTs and their role in rigid glass displays, but earlier this year we brought you a story from Dr. Jin Jang at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, about a new flexible backplane technology using bulk-accumulation (BA) amorphous indium-gallium-zinc-oxide (a-IGZO) TFTs.  The first part covered the details of how this backplane could be fabricated, and its associated performance advantages.  In the second part, appearing this month and titled “Bulk Accumulation Oxide-TFT Backplane Technology for Flexible and Rollable AMOLED Displays,” he describes how this technology was used to build a working flexible AMOLED display, its performance as a semiconductor material compared with poly-Si and single-gate oxide TFTs, and its future potential to help achieve the goal of truly flexible AMOLED displays.

Before I close, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the truly exceptional executive and program committees that made Display Week 2016 such a success.  Under the leadership of General Chair Hoi-Sing Kwok and Program Chair Cheng Chen, the event met every expectation we could have imagined, and the numbers prove it.  Attendance overall was up 5%, with more than 7,000 individual registrations, and Symposium registrations topped 1900.  The great lineup of speakers and topics delivered on its promises, and next year in Los Angeles will surely be another great event.

And so, with those comments I wish everyone a prosperous and peaceful fall season.  •