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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Move over, tablets. Flexible display screens are coming.

Though it may sound like this is straight from science fiction, I assure you, it’s real: LG Display has announced that the company has started to mass produce the first plastic electronic paper display (EPD). Translation: a six-inch screen that is bendable up to 40 degrees. According to the LG press release published online by Engadget:

The world’s first plastic EPD from LG Display offers users a paper-like reading experience with a plastic substrate that is as slim as cell phone protection film, and a flexible design that allows bending at a range of 40 degrees from the center of the screen. Compared to glass EPD of the same size and resolution, LG Display’s plastic EPD realizes a super slim thickness of 0.7mm which is 1/3 slimmer than existing glass EPD; as well as a weight of 14g which is more than 1/2 lighter.

Source: Engadget.com

The company claims that its latest release will change the ebook market, citing that 10 percent of ereader users have damaged their devices from dropping or hitting their screens. Their bendable plastic solution might just be the answer to all of our clumsy prayers.

That said, while the technology is certainly impressive, I do wonder how much of an impact something like this would have on the ebook and ereader market. After all, though it is certainly easy to forget these days, the success of these devices truly depend on content. Without a consistent, solid working model for ebook distribution, then no matter how flashy (or bendable) the technology, in my opinion at least, it’s not going to be successful. But it is still pretty cool to look at.

Additionally, having been spoiled by sleek iPad designs, fancy apps, and the promise of enhanced ebook potential, does the bendable e-ink screen come  a little too late for ereader users? Is this just a stepping stone in the technology world for something greater (say, bendable/rollable TV screens)? Don’t laugh; we’re not that far away from it.

In fact, it is important to note that LG is not the first company to explore technology of this kind, and perhaps an enhanced, video friendly rendition of this technology will be coming sooner than you may think. After all, in 2008 Samsung revealed a thin, “flapping” panel of a screen, and Sony had debuted a prototype for a flexible TV screen back in 2007:

It would seem that the future of displays is in OLED technology, which stands for “organic light-emitting diode.” Without going into the nitty-gritty technical details (I’ll save that for someone who is a bit more familiar with the stuff), I think it is fascinating and holds quite a bit of potential for a lot of entertainment and media industries.

However, going back to LG’s announcement, as a standalone device, I’m not sure something like this is going to “revolutionize” the ebook market just yet. The technology world seems to be moving too fast for both consumers and adoption rates for me to consider it a hands-down success.

But maybe I’m wrong. At any rate, LG’s EPD technology is being produced and supplied to China with the goal of getting the product into European markets next month.

As with any new technology, I guess only time will tell if it’s going to be successful. What are your predictions?

2 comments on “Move over, tablets. Flexible display screens are coming.

  1. Claire Schulz
    April 3, 2012

    From the picture you chose, it shows the content bending in the middle, not appearing as a two-page spread as a book would. I’m not convinced that it’ll catch on, since bending it seems kind of gimmicky. If they think their material is the answer to damage woes, maybe the product with most appeal would simply be a more durable tablet!

  2. Erica Hartnett
    April 3, 2012

    I agree with you, Claire, and it will be interesting to see more photos as this develops. I think one of the purported advantages is that bending could also help with glare? I don’t know. I still see this as more of a trial for something bigger and better, because I don’t know that it’s the answer for ereaders.

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2012 by in Opinion, Technology and tagged , , , .

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