Lighting the Way into a New Year

Lighting the Way into a New Year

by Stephen P. Atwood

Welcome to 2018. Once again we embark on a new year with great hopes and many new technical innovations on the horizon. It’s an extremely fertile time in our industry, with many rapid advancements in fields such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, wearable technologies, quantum dots, and of course OLEDs. In this issue we turn our attention to lighting, including new advances in OLED lighting, new understanding of how the spectrum of light affects our health, and new ways in which traditional display technology can be leveraged to shift the paradigm of automotive lighting technology. This and much more await you in this first issue of Information Display for 2018.

Environmental ambient lighting technology is a topic of interest for me for personal reasons. I have always found harsh and direct task lighting uncomfortable for work. Lamps with bright beams that point directly at my work surface produce glare that affects my eyes’ ability to focus and causes headaches. To avoid this I tend to use a lot of bright light around the room, which is inefficient. As I have aged, I notice that I need even more light to focus on small things, and I sometimes resort to using flashlights at specific angles that I can control. But the angle needs to be just right, and if I can see any part of the beam directly, this method doesn’t help me. For the above reasons, I now prefer the even lighting of digital screens to paper and tend to use my tablet much more than books.

Apparently I’m compensating for existing lighting equipment that is neither ergonomically designed nor well suited for my use. And I suspect my experience isn’t unique. I find this discomfort with lighting also affects my mood. Spending time in small spaces, such as airplanes, with poorly designed or dingy lighting only makes the experience less appealing. Dining in a dimly lit restaurant can be romantic for some people, but does not enhance the experience for me. Neither does an extremely bright or harsh industrial environment with overly bluish-white lighting.

Therefore, I can really appreciate the work of people who study the effects of lighting on people’s well-being. An open space with well-designed ergonomic lighting, whether it be for work or play, makes a big difference in the quality of the experience. I’ve thought for years about how I could remodel the rooms in my home and office with wide-sweeping indirect lighting with adjustable color temperature and intensity. I’ve marveled at some of the more recent commercial spaces I’ve seen where the ambient light is bright and neutral in tone, and seems to come from everywhere but nowhere in particular.

Although the basic design of indoor lighting fixtures has changed very little over the past few decades, significant advancements of the kind mentioned above are starting to be made. I believe even more progress will be enabled by the latest developments in OLED technology.

So I am excited about our issue lineup featuring a pair of articles developed by our guest editor, Marina Kondakova. Marina is the director of device formulation at OLEDWorks and a chair of the Display Week 2018 technical program sub-committee for lighting. She is also someone who has thoughtfully considered how better lighting technology can improve our lives in many ways. I encourage you to read her guest editorial, which sets the stage for these important pieces.

The first article describes how the management of our circadian rhythms can be affected by our exposure to differing spectrums of light at different times of the day. Author Mariana G. Figueiro, director of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) and professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, describes the LRC’s latest work in the Frontline Technology article, “Biological Effects of Light: Can Self-Luminous Displays Play a Role?”

The second article in this set specifically addresses my desire for innovative lighting solutions that produce natural, diffuse, ambient light without glare and can be affordable for use in homes as well as commercial spaces. In her Display Marketplace article, “OLED Lighting Hits the Market,” author Giana Phelan, director of business development at OLEDWorks, describes how the latest innovations in OLED technology are creating exciting new opportunities. Giana’s survey not only describes the potential opportunities, but spells out the practical technical details associated with implementation of OLED luminaires. We’ve seen a lot of good notional ideas of how OLED lighting can be a great opportunity for designers and architects, but now, finally, I think we’re crossing the chasm to practical commercial solutions for everyone. And, thank you again Marina for your great work in selecting these stories for us.

Revolutionary Headlamps

Another market area that is increasingly important to the display community is automotive. In so many ways, display and lighting technology are coming to define the most critical design elements of new cars. Much of that effort has been focused on the interior of the vehicle, where there is a need to convey information and manage the interior ambient experience. But another important element of car design is the performance of the lights on the outside, specifically the headlights. It’s well understood that today’s headlight designs are lacking in critical areas, including the characteristic of fixed beam patterns and limited modes for adjusting intensity.

Some clever new (mostly mechanical) enhancements have recently been seen but none so clearly innovative as the concept we saw last summer in the Display Week 2017 Innovation Zone (I-Zone) from IGM, University of Stuttgart, in partnership with HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co. Their demonstration featured a high-intensity light source, a low-resolution LCD panel, and some optics very reminiscent of projection optics from the LCOS days. The result was a high-resolution steerable beam headlight demonstration that won the I-Zone Best Prototype Award for 2017.

In their Frontline Technology article, “High Resolution LCD Headlamps for Intelligent Lighting,” authors Christiane Reinert-Weiss and David Duhme describe the current state of the art, the dimensions of the problem they set out to solve, and the details of their paradigm-shifting innovation. Among the problems was the issue of losing the unselected polarization mode of the light through the LC panel. This would theoretically limit the luminous efficiency to below 50 percent.

Their clever solution passes both horizontal and vertical polarization modes through different areas of the same LC panel and then re-combines them. It’s a relatively easy thing to do as long as you have much greater pixel resolution than you need. And though it sounds simple, this innovation is critical to achieving the necessary optical power efficiency at an affordable cost point for commercial adoption. The result is a smart-enabled solid-state headlight system that can be adjusted to any light level and beam pattern needed based on inputs from the onboard processing systems in the vehicle. I truly think this is a revolutionary achievement, and someday you can say you read about it here first.

Metrology and Business

Beyond lighting there are countless other areas of ongoing research and one of these is display metrology. Through International Committee for Display Metrology (ICDM) meetings at Display Week events and other standards-based activities, people are working hard to keep up with the new formats and technologies of displays that need accurate, appropriately engineered measurement methods. One such area with associated work is described in our Making Displays Work for You feature, “Curved Displays Challenge Display Metrology,” written by colleagues Michael E. Becker, Jürgen Neumeier, and Martin Wolf from Instrument Systems GmbH, in Munich, Germany. In this very detailed study, the authors describe the issues that curved displays impose on existing measurement equipment and methods, making a compelling case for how those methods can be adapted for best results. This is a significant body of work very well documented for further consideration, and we truly appreciate Michael, Jürgen, and Martin investing their considerable time to bring this article to us.

In our Business of Displays feature this month, Jenny Donelan details her interview with Matej Zalar, CEO and founder of Visionect, a startup company based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, that develops ultra-low-power digital signage. This conversation also included Sri Peruvemba, board member of Visionect and SID director of marketing. At Sri’s invitation, Jenny and I also met with Visionect about two years ago at E Ink’s headquarters in Massachusetts. Visionect was an early adopter of E Ink e-paper for its first product, “Geoffrey,” which provided a tabletop menu application for restaurants. Since then, the company has started producing office automation products and experienced a lot of the classic challenges small companies go through to develop, market, and mass-produce their new products. I think you will enjoy this very candid and educational interview with Matej and Sri.

Unfortunately, we also have some sad news to share. We were dismayed to hear of the passing of Dr. Hsing-Yao “Jim” Chen in November 2017. Many of us knew Jim, and also his impressive roster of technical achievements. But more importantly, we knew him for his engaging and caring personality. Whenever he and I met each year at SID national events, Jim was always generous with his time – happy to answer questions and to offer suggestions on a number of matters. He was well respected by all for his engineering expertise and widely recognized for his substantial efforts to further the interests of SID. Our SID News article this month by Jenny Donelan has more details on Dr. Chen’s life and legacy.

Before we end, let me offer a truly heartfelt wish for your good health, success, and prosperity in this New Year. We all have our individual hopes for 2018 and beyond. In recent years, I have been able to spend more time with my family and enjoy the things I truly cherish. I hope you too have similar ambitions. As I have written many times, a better work-life balance actually makes you more productive and more prosperous than endless working hours ever will. May we all find our own form of peace and happiness in the New Year.  •