Display Taiwan Round-Up

Next-generation autostereoscopic displays represent just one of the emerging trends from the summer 2011 show.

by Steve Sechrist

PICK any hot technology trend in the display industry and it is likely there is a Taiwan connection, from next-generation AMOLED backplanes to proliferating low-power e-paper displays, to new autostereoscopic 3-D eye-tracking technologies that eliminate dead-zone viewing, to power-over-Ethernet displays that lose the AC power cord. These and many more technologies could be seen at Display Taiwan, which took place in June in Taipei's Nangang Exhibition Conference Center.

The exposition, which was hosted by several technical associations, included over 600 booths of all sizes and 45,000 visitors. LED lighting, solar, and a Living Green pavilion were featured in addition to displays. Conference sessions included Photonics and a Display Business and Technology Forum. Invited speakers came from the EU, Japan, U.S., and, yes, Taiwan, covering key areas in commercial lighting (such as GaN/Si), with sessions on LEDs and photovoltaics, plus display sessions on optics, e-Paper, lasers, OLEDs, and 3-D.

The opening ceremony was highlighted by a visit from the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou, who presented Photonic Awards to several companies. The host groups for the event included TAITRA (the Taiwan External Trade Development Council), TCA (Taipei Computer Association), PIDA (Photonics Industry & Technology Development Association), and SEMI Taiwan, underscoring the trend in multi-discipline collaboration in producing a show of this size.

This event was well worth the trip – I have created a wrap-up by display-technology category to help readers who could not attend to home in on their particular area of interest.

3-D

Probably the most compelling technology shown at Display Taiwan was next-generation autostereoscopic 3-D, particularly the developments in the mobile-display space.

AUO Corp. was showing a new 15.6-in. autostereoscopic 3-D technology based on a switchable lenticular lens approach that uses eye tracking to determine where the (single) user is looking.

The on-board camera in a laptop tracks the eyes and algorithms adjust how the 3-D image is mapped to the pixels to present a consistently clear image. The "SuperD Player" application software developed by AUO and the image-processing chip tie in the camera and hardware display technology and are at the heart of the system. The company claims the technology is "dead-zone free" (Fig. 1).

 

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Fig. 1: AUO's eye-tracking technology eliminates autostereoscopic dead zones.

 

The player's 3-D content can be scaled to cover the entire screen, or a portion of it. From what I saw, the single-user technology is compelling and the 3-D imagery fantastic. In 2-D mode, the display delivers full-HD (1920 x 1080) pixel resolution and offers a brightness of 260 cd/m2. In 3-D mode, AUO said the resolution drops to 1366 x 768, with the optimal viewing distance at 50–90 cm (Table 1).

 


Table 1: AUO's 15.6-in. autostereoscopic laptop
  Switchable Lenticular Lens
Display 15.6-in. glasses-free 3-D
3-D Resolution 1366 x 768 HD
2-D Resolution 1920 x 1080 Full HD
Brightness (3-D mode) 260 cd/m2
3-D Viewing Angle 30°
Optimal Viewing Distance 50–90 cm

 

Rotating Autostereoscopic Display Using Multi-Primary Square Pixels

Changhwa Picture Tubes (CPT) showed, for the first time, a unique 10.1-in. autostereoscopic display based on a multi-primary square pixel that rotates between portrait and landscape mode (i.e., as required by iPads). The approach adds a fourth primary (subpixel) and changes the shape of the pixel to a square to accommodate full rotation between the two views: horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait) (Table 2).

 


Table 2: CPT's Portrait/Landscape Rotating Autostereoscopic 3-D Display
  Square-Pixel Prototype Display
Display 10.1-in. glasses-free 3-D with unique square-pixel design
Module Size 222.72 (H) x 125.28 (V)
Resolution 1024 x 600 x 4 (subpixels) multi-primary
Brightness 340 nits
3-D Viewing Angle 30°
Color Gamut 58%
Contrast 400:1
Optimal Viewing Distance 60 cm
Interface LVDS

 

I met with Pei-Lin Hsieh of the CPT Innovative Product Division (R&D center), who told me the unique display design requires a square pixel to rotate between the two modes for use in tablets and other displays showing glasses-free 3-D. CPT created a multi-primary pixel using RGBW in a box shape (rather than the conventional rectangular shape), which offers a total display resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. Hsieh also told me the company had to create a unique color-filter structure to match the square-pixel format. Algorithms enable the display of the three zones of RGBW.

In the booth, the company showed its new prototype in both H and V mode, next to a reference display that the technology beat hands down. The 10.1-in. display prototype supports three zones in the autostereoscopic mode. Hsieh said she may have a chance to come to the U.S. and present the technology in a paper at Display Week in Boston next spring. Let's hope so.

Other mobile 3-D displays shown by CPT included a 9.7-in. passive 3-D panel integrated into an Apple iPad using the pattern retarder approach (circular polarizer). The display was XGA with a luminance of 300 nits and switchable 2-D/3-D modes. There was a 21.5-in. touch version of this patterned retarder 3-D technology on hand as well.

CPT also showed a 21.5-in. LC retarder-based 3-D system it claimed offered full 3-D resolution. This is a standard shipping panel that is now selling as the company is looking to differentiate using smaller 3-D displays going forward. This one features linear polarized 3-D glasses (45° and 135°), a fast 5-msec response time, 1920 x 1080 pixels, a brightness of 225 cd/m2 at a contrast ratio of 1000:1, and 170° (H) / 160° (V) viewing angle. This unit was shown integrated into an Apple iMac.

NewSight 3-D

One other 3-D technology at Display Taiwan came from the NewSight Japan company and its charismatic president Kyoto Kanda. The company showed a range of autostereoscopic devices, from a 42- to an 8.4-in. display. NewSight offers both a film-overlay solution, used to upgrade an Apple iPad at the show, plus lenticular screens for larger displays up to 80+ in. on the diagonal (Fig. 2).

 

fig2

Fig. 2: Kyoto Kanda's wide range of AS 3-D displays at Display Taiwan.

 

The Newsight 3-D parallax-barrier approach uses an overlay film, special 3-D media player, and precision placement over the LCD to create the autostereoscopic effect. Essentially, the technology subdivides the LCD image into "…complex repeating segments," according to the company's Web site, "that when viewed and then integrated by the human binocular vision, present 3-D views of the screen." Reports on-line indicate this approach creates the 3-D effect by allowing different sets of pixels to be viewed for each eye using slits cut into the barrier material overlay placed on the LCD. The technology also requires a special "eight-tile" format media player that can be used with 2-D and 3-D content. NewSight showed off this technology in April of 2010, at Finetech Japan, on a 70-in. Sharp LCD.

Kanda told me the technology was now being applied to Sharp's 82-in. LCD panel to create the world's largest single-glass glasses-free 3-D display. This is to debut at FPD International in Yokohama, Japan, later this year.

Active-Shutter-Glasses OEM Powertip

Powertip Technology was showing off a liquid-crystal (LC) panel for active-shutter 3-D glasses as well as a host of small autostereoscopic displays for mobile apps such as cell and smart phones and 3-D video cameras (Fig. 3). The company targets TV, notebook, and monitor applications for 3-D glasses and is already providing LC panels for several manufacturers. Powertip also makes its own off-the-shelf universal shutter glasses that Arthur Liang, VP at Powertip, told me had a factory price, depending on quantity, as low as $20. He said most OEM customers were marking up the price of the glasses to $100 (Table 3).

 

fig3

Fig. 3: Arthur Lang of Powertip demonstrates 3-D imagery on a portable display.

 


Table 3: PowerTip Active 3-D Shutter Glasses Specs
Glasses Type Active Shutter
Sync Signal Infrared
Frequency 120 Hz
Response Time 2 msec
Contrast 2000:1
Transmittance 39 ± 2%
Battery Type 3.7 V / 100 mA Li ion
Weight 55 g

 

Powertip said its active-shutter LC technology control board and 3-D displays are all completely customizable for its OEM customers. Representatives also showed me a range of small 3-D LCD panels in sizes from 7 to 2.8 in. Other non-3-D displays included a 4.3-in. sunlight-readable transmissive display and a 4.3-in. capacitive-touch display with 800 x 480 resolution that targets the smartphone market.

Alternative Power for Displays

Perhaps one of the more interesting trends to surface at Display Taiwan was DC-powered technology, with examples shown by both 3M and CPT. 3M characterized its initiative in a "Potential Future State" presentation shown in the Display Taiwan booth using an old IEEE standard, 802.3af. The move by 3M and others toward DC power for displays may be just the first step, as I think additional connected devices will also be announced. 3M's first iterations of ditching AC came in both Power-over-Ethernet (POE) and USB 3.0 (Fig. 4).

 

fig4

Fig. 4: 3M showed this DC-powered home alternative concept at Display Taiwan.

 

Supporting material from 3M also cited a potential drop in the cost of new equipment installations, with no professional (high power) electrician or national electrical code oversight needed (Table 4).

 


Table 4: Specs for 3M's USB 3.0-Powered monitor
23.6-in. WLED BLU at 1920 x 1080
200 cd/m2
Power: 9 W
Liquid-crystal module 6.5 W
Weight: 2500 grams
No AC power cord, No VGA cable, USB 3.0 only

 

3M is targeting a reference monitor design that consumes less than 20 W of power, making it a good candidate for the POE design that includes 25.5 W of power in its spec. Not only will the Ethernet cable carry power, but content as well, in this single-wire design that offers energy efficiency to the display.

CPT's low-power display offering included a 10.1-in. display at 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, powered by a single connector, plus two other displays, an 18.5-in. display at 1366 x 768 and a 21.5-in. display at 1920 x 1080 that required two USB 3.0 connectors' worth of power to work.

Alternative Displays

One of the more interesting alternative displays shown at Display Taiwan this year was the transparent 15.6-in. display called "Show Box" located in the CPT booth. This was positioned by the company as a new signage application that does not use a color filter and offers high transmittance, high color gamut, and a see-through (optically transparent) panel that can serve as an advertising medium (Fig. 5).

 

fig5

Fig. 5: CPT's shadow-box transparent display is being demonstrated for signage applications.

 

The main idea behind the transparent panel is to showcase objects with an addressable (color) transparent window in front. Specifications, details, features, and benefits can all be added to highlight the product within a shadow-box-like display, or even conceivably (in future iterations), as a partial shop window.

Ignis a-Si AMOLED Backplanes Slated for Mass Production

Small-OLED panel-maker RiTDisplay was also at Display Taiwan showing off its 3.5-in. OLED with an announcement that the company will bring this technology into mass production by the end of this year. It's significant in that this OLED panel uses the active-matrix backplane from Ignis Innovation, the company that made a business out of pixel-circuit packages for AMOLED displays with a "drop-in" technology approach into the current TFT manufacturing base. According to Ignis, the "AdMo" technology is an "…in-pixel, self-adjusting, and autonomous circuit solution that constantly adapts to changing driving and environmental conditions" (Fig. 6).

 

fig6

Fig. 6: RiTDisplay's 3.5-in. AMOLED HVGA panel uses an active-matrix backplane from Ignis Innovation.

 

The company claims these backplanes are much less expensive than the LTPS backplanes used by current OLED-market-leader Samsung. Earlier this month, Digitimes reported that RiTDisplay will use two of its six existing PMOLED production lines for making AMOLED panels.

RiTDisplay said it is using the Ignis AdMo for amorphous-silicon, but recent statements show the technology to be still "under development." What RiTDisplay showed was an HVGA (320 x 480) pixel-resolution OLED (small molecule) with a density of 166 dpi, luminance of 200 nits, and a contrast ratio of 10,000:1 with a power consumption of 150 mW. The company claims the emissive display is angle "free," offering a full viewing plane. The colors did pop, and Ignis's claims of mura (brightness variation) removal and image sticking seemed to be working in the prototype units on display.

New Large-Panel LCDs

Other larger panels shown at Display Taiwan included a new 55-in. super-narrow bezel LED-based LCD for video walls from ChiLin. I was told that panel was simultaneously being shown at the InfoComm exhibition in the U.S. during the same week as Display Taiwan. This is a panel that boasts a 5.7-mm image-to-image gap, the same as the Samsung U-series panel (Fig. 7).

 

fig7

Fig. 7: ChiLin's 55-in. narrow-bezel tiled LCD has a "pencil-thin" image-to-image gap.

 

The company was also showing a 1-in.-larger 56-in. medical-imaging display with full color in a whopping 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution. Coincidently, CMO launched a panel with just the same specs back in February 2006. ChiLin will target medical and other high-resolution applications for this display, with pricing to be announced.

E Ink Holdings Displays

Perhaps the best way to complete this Display Taiwan round-up is with E Ink Holdings. The company was on hand at Display Taiwan with an array of new products that illustrate just how pervasive e-Paper displays may become in the not-to-distant future. The demonstrations were very similar to what the company showed just weeks before at SID, so you may have had a look if you attended Display Week. New to the booth was the latest 6-in. Nook touch display (based on Pearl) that is now shipping to strong reviews in the press.

Of late, E Ink has been enjoying a powerful display offering that dominates the e-book reader (EBR) category. The company will ship between 20 and 30 million panels this year and plans to triple last year's display-manufacturing capacity by September 2011. Much as Apple dominates the tablet market today, E Ink Holdings is the most profitable display maker in the e-reader space. Its sister company Hydis is another display industry darling in the small-LCD-panel market, expanding smartphone and tablet viewing angles by licensing its FFS IP with a huge profit upside.

All this was not lost on Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou during his tour of the Expo. He spent a good deal of time in the E Ink booth with his entourage and a mass of reporters in tow. Ying-Jeou is a Harvard Law grad who, during his time in the U.S., lived in the same Cambridge, MA, neighborhood as the original E Ink Corp headquarters. E Ink display VP of Marketing Sriram Peruvemba prepared a special gift for Taiwan's Chief Executive, an E Ink in-glass picture of the old Harvard Yard made from the new E Ink EPH material that powers the Nook and Kindle readers. Peruvemba presented the gift to the Taiwanese President, who lingered in the booth among concept devices such as "Rosey" the E Ink music stand and the ruggedized E Ink powered snowboard that potentially displays vital weather information and other data, real time, even during the ride down the mountain. (These were shown at Display Week as well.) We can look to E Ink to eventually integrate its displays into devices, clothing, medicine bottles, and just about anything that can add benefit, information, or yes — even whimsy — to our daily lives.

The Age of the Display is Upon Us and Taiwan is Planning for a Central Role

Displays in Taiwan are a big deal, as evidenced by the fact that this multi-consortium event attracted 45,000 visitors this year. The Taiwanese show also commanded national media attention and received a visit from the country's president. But perhaps even more important to the display industry, some key next-generation technologies were shown that point the way to the future of displays.

Make no mistake, the information age is upon us and that means we are also in the age of the display – and Taiwan is showing us that things have only just begun, demonstrating this with both viable creative solutions and a national (even political) commitment to play a key role in the display industry well into the coming decade. •

 


Steve Sechrist is an 18-year technology and display-industry veteran who has held positions as a Sr. Analyst and Editor for Insight Media for the past 6 years. He serves on both national and local SID committees as well as the local Pacific Northwest SID chapter. He can be reached at sechrist@ucla.edu.