Looking Back at Display Week and Summer, Looking Ahead to Fall
by Stephen P. Atwood
Hello and welcome to our annual Display Week review issue. I hope you all enjoyed your summer as much as I enjoyed mine. It’s the time of year when we get a chance to test that work-life balance theory people keep talking about. Business moves ever forward, but the outdoors and recreation opportunities beckon with a full-throated plea for us to engage in them! As the summer comes to an end, many of us find ourselves involved in strategic planning and product road-mapping activities. These activities frequently require inspiration and hence it’s a great time to look back at all the innovation and new ideas we saw just afew months ago at Display Week in LA.
Our issue this month includes eight articles reviewing various topical areas of the show. This could be a record for ID, and it was made possible by the very energetic work of our roving reporters, each of whom possesses subject-matter expertise in a specific area. I’ll comment on some of the key topics as we move along, but let me acknowledge all of our reporters and their beats right up front and thank them very sincerely for their contributions: Achin Bhowmik (Augmented and Virtual Reality), Karlheinz Blankenbach (Automotive Displays), Gary Feather (Emissive Materials for Digital Signage), Tom Fiske (Metrology and Image Quality), Steve Sechrist (I-Zone Exhibits), and Ken Werner (Glass and Polymers and Emissive Materials). Also, a special thanks to Jenny Donelan, who authored our story recognizing the winners of the prestigious SID Best in Show awards. This year’s four Best in Show winners were selected from more than 200 outstanding exhibitors, both large and small. Their winning displays and exhibits are summarized in Jenny’s article.
MicroLEDs, AR/VR, Foldable OLEDs, and a Super-Fast LCD
There were several significant technology trends and meaningful breakthroughs at this year’s show to talk about. The first was a surge of presentations and demonstrations on microLED technology. Driven by significant improvements in performance, packaging, and manufacturing costs, µLEDs are showing promise as the building blocks for very high-performance displays in both small and large formats, as well as potential projection imagers. As the luminous output of LED technology advances to remarkable levels, the concept of making a matrix display by simply laying out an array of extremely small discrete or modularly packaged RGB LEDs becomes all the more viable. While it’s somewhat straightforward to fabricate many thousands of discrete LEDs per inch on a wafer, it’s not practical to make a tablet-size display this way for multiple reasons. The challenge hence is transferring the individual devices from wafer-scale fabrication spacing to tablet or TV-size substrates in an economical way. Using the technology that is available commercially now, it could take days or weeks to assemble a single, reasonably sized display this way. That is the next hurdle, and it received a lot of attention this year – though it did not stop some companies from showing 7- and even 8-in. panels, proving the concept has great promise.
Another topic that was very well represented, at least in the technical symposium, was augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and all manner of tangential research areas such as dynamic focus techniques, foveated rendering schemes, advances in position tracking for head-worn systems, and a variety of ways to increase resolution and fields of view. In particular, emerging technology for motion tracking with high speed and resolution is extremely important if we expect to achieve user experiences equivalent to real life at an affordable cost any time soon. This could be critical to making AR/VR systems practical for long periods of productive use in industrial applications. It’s not just the displays that are getting a lot of attention but also the systems that those displays enable. I counted a total of 12 AR/VR paper sessions over the three days, and the ones I attended had big audiences. Clearly there is a lot of good work going on in this area all over the world and it will create a surge of new products and applications very soon.
In the category of “Gee Whiz,” I would put the numerous demonstrations of flexible displays, including LG Display’s 77-in. flexible OLED screen shown in the very front of the exhibit hall, where it was continuously folded and unfolded during the show. Also notable was the Visionox demonstration of multiple foldable AMOLED formats, including a 7.2-in. panel that could achieve a 1.6-mm folding radius. Visionox rightly won a Best in Show award for its innovative and creative application demonstrations. Of course, there was also a wide array of great technical papers on OLED technology, many of them with flexible substrates, and lots of new work reported on substrate materials and fabrication techniques as well.
I think this year’s Innovation Zone (I-Zone) exhibit was the best ever, and I applaud the committee for expanding the format and including close to 50 demonstrations. Several I-Zone exhibitors were also recognized with their own version of Best in Show awards, including a team from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology that also received a best student paper award. Their development was a 60-Hz frame-rate 250-ppi active-matrix field-sequential color LCD – yes, you read that right – an LCD with a 10-µs response time!
The field of display metrology was also well represented this year, with a nice suite of papers in the symposium and exhibits on the show floor. The ability to employ substantial numerical processing power at low cost has enabled an exciting new generation of instruments that not only collect data but in at least one case can generate simulations and predict performance under variable ambient conditions. The ability to embed advanced data analysis and predictive simulation directly into instrumentation could be a real paradigm shift for the display metrology industry.
There were many other great things at Display Week, too many in fact to enumerate in this short space, but I think the best part was getting to see colleagues and friends I know well along with meeting many new people who share a common passion for this industry.
SID’s New President
One important milestone this year was the handoff of the gavel to incoming SID President Helge Seetzen. Helge has been a great supporter of the Society and I have come to respect him a great deal through our work together on the SID publications. Helge took the time to lay out his vision for the next two years in his President’s Corner column, “Goals for a Sustainable Society.” I especially like his ideas about fostering a greater number of women in SID leadership, which I hope will translate to a greater representation of women in the display industry as well.
The Entrepreneurial Adventure
In addition to all the time Jenny Donelan invested in assembling this issue, she also interviewed Yiorgos Bontzios, CEO of Fieldscale, a company based in Thessaloniki, Greece, that makes simulation software for touch-panel developers. In our Business of Displays feature, Yiorgos shares the experience of developing his company’s flagship product, SENSE, which is the first-ever full-simulation tool for capacitive touch sensors. Like most entrepreneurs, he and his team underwent the highs and lows of having a vision, realizing how hard it is to commercialize that vision, then seeing their work evolve into something meaningful and valuable. That, along with SID News and Industry News, is a quick summary of what you will find in this issue.
But before I end this column, I want to come back to that seed I planted in the opening remarks when I mentioned work-life balance. If you are in a fast-paced work environment, you probably feel the pressure to keep advancing your work and not stray too far from the email and the cell phone – I know I feel the pressure constantly. But despite that, I’ve taken several weeks of vacation so far this year and made them most effective by almost completely disconnecting from work and on-line activities. I’ve spent quality time with my family, most of it in outdoor settings – camping, hiking, and boating. I’ve taken both a long stretch of two weeks and some short stretches of long
weekends. Even short stretches of time off seem to reduce my stress and improve my sense of well-being. I’m sharing this with you because as you read this, there is probably still some warm fall weather left and some time for you to get out there and enjoy it. So take my advice: take some time off for yourself and take along this issue of
ID for some easy reading on the way. •