New Directions for LCDs


by Phil Bos

For about 50 years, the direction of liquid-crystal technology development for displays has been clear. Displays obviously needed to be improved in the areas of diagonal size, thickness, viewing angle, resolution, response speed, contrast, and color rendition. But now, the areas that obviously needed improvement have been addressed, to the point where I am totally happy with the display on my TV, computer, phone, and tablet computer. I'm even OK with the price! So, what is next for liquid-crystal technology?

For me, the short answer is 3-D displays and electronic windows. My best justification for this is Johnny Lee's video, which you should be sure to check out if you have not already seen it:

A better data point was the Display Week 2011 exhibition, where it was clear that many display manufacturers are betting that the next direction for displays is 3-D. Excellent advances have been recently demonstrated with the addition of the stereopsis cue using several different methods.

However, while the current displays are really cool, it is tempering to note that for many viewers, the experience is not what might be expected. For example, in the article "3-D TV from the Consumer Perspective" by Matthew Brennesholtz and Chris Chinnock in the November/December 2010 issue of Information DisplayID's own Steve Atwood was quoted as feeling a bit queasy after viewing many consumer devices. This is not an uncommon reaction to 3-D displays; however, I would like to offer that the problem is not with 2-D being better than 3-D, but that further improvements in liquid-crystal technology are needed. When these are addressed, they will show the full potential of 3-D.

The need for further advances, in my opinion, is related to the paradoxical statement that the closer a 3-D displays gets to perfect (getting closer to what you think is a real window through which you are seeing real objects), the better the display needs to be. It appears that if your senses tell you that the object you are looking at is real, but there is some sort of cue conflict, your brain apparently thinks the problem is not with the display, but with you. I think this is analogous to being in a room on a boat where your sight cues tell you the room is stationary, but your balance cues tell you the room is moving. Your brain does not automatically understand that the cue conflict is from the rocking boat. It might assume you have eaten a bad mushroom that you need to get rid of. In any case, the sensation is not pleasurable or anything you would like to experience often.

But with attention to the details of the human factors of 3-D perception and liquid-crystal technology, these issues are being solved. Really good displays in which 3-D devices will allow a new level of realism and interactivity might first be expected for single-viewer applications. In this issue, there are two articles about liquid-crystal technology for flat-panel-type 3-D displays. The first, from Samsung, goes into the details of liquid-crystal technology for current devices. The other makes an attempt to point to the issues that might to be addressed in order to allow improvements in the next generation of flat-panel 3-D displays.

Regarding the window application mentioned earlier, an interesting demonstration that colleagues here at Kent State did was to place a flat-panel display in a room on the inside surface of an exterior wall, and then place a camera on the other side of the wall, outside, looking outwards. So when you looked at the display, it was as though you were looking through a real window to the outside. It was amazing how easy it was to consider the "fake" window real, and how it provided a sense of greater openness to the room. While this application is apparently not of current interest, this could change, considering the popularity of windows. It could be that the market for this type of application could be even more significant than 3-D computers and TV displays. •