A Look Back at 2015 – and Even Further

A Look Back at 2015 – and Even Further

by Stephen Atwood

Welcome to the final 2015 issue of Information Display.  It’s been an amazing year for both our own display industry and the wider world of electronics, computers, and technology in general.  We’ve experienced some amazing paradigm shifts involving communications, personal devices, entertainment, and so much more.  Wearable devices made amazing strides this year, going from novelties to must-have accessories.  Data speeds for both wired and wireless networks expanded dramatically as streaming media seemed to take over the entertainment landscape.  It seems like I watched more original content from non-broadcast sources (Amazon, Netflix, etc.) than broadcast this year for the first time.  Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other wearable devices were everywhere at my workplace, and the typical tablet display had more pixels and better image quality than my best television did just 5 years ago.  Smartphones with unique display shapes also came to market, giving us a hint of how flexible displays may be implemented in the future.  I finally achieved a paperless office with not a single printout or paper form to sign all year  No, I’m just kidding about that one!  I doubt that will ever happen.  The digital dashboards in new cars were simply amazing, though it felt like they were about 10 years behind schedule – at least compared to when we were expecting them to appear.  I saw my first true light-field projection-display demo and heard promises about  a $3000 OLED TV.  I also saw an amazing demonstration of the Dolby Vision HDR technology now available through TV maker Vizio (read more about it in this issue’s Industry News).

Display Week 2015 revealed a dizzying week of new discoveries and proof that our industry is experiencing more creativity than ever before.  On top of all this, I now actually own a laptop that stays alive on battery longer than my flights between Boston and California – and the display is great!  The variety of creative product ideas that are enabled by the latest generation of displays and related electronics are simply endless.  This is a great time to be part of our wonderful industry and also the best time ever to be a member of SID.  There is no other organization that can put you on the inside of this industry like SID can – whether through the wide variety of local chapter activities or through the great international events such as Display Week or the recently announced Display Training School (DTS) courses being organized all over the world (find out more in this month’s SID News.)  Joining SID is the best step you can make to further your career skills and technical knowledge in this very dynamic field.

Our issue theme for this month is “Lighting and Imaging Technologies,” two very active areas of research and development that have the potential to change our lives in significant ways.  Advanced lighting systems, as I’ll explain shortly, have the potential to literally improve our health and productivity while imaging technology, specifically real-time 3D depth imaging of live scenes, will change the way we interact with all our electronic devices in the future.  I’m placing emphasis on the term “will” because I have no doubt that the future of human interaction with computers will include voice, gesture, face, and identity recognition.  It may someday go as far as emotional interaction and real personality identification but even without that latter dynamic, we’re very soon going to start seeing platforms capable of complex gesture and facial recognition.  Even more exciting is that the same technology that enables these capabilities also enables endless new ways of creating augmented-reality applications such as merging real-life scenes with animation and virtual-reality platforms bringing users directly into the digital world.  I’ve learned this in part by following the work at Intel being widely publicized recently and brought to us this month by our Guest Editor Achin Bhowmik, who also co-authored our cover story “Advances in 3D Sensing Technologies and Applications” written by Achin and his research team at Intel.  Their work includes solving a number of very specific problems relatedto what we might have called “machine vision” in earlier times, as well as proposing a number of very intuitive and intriguing potential applications for the technology.  Personally, I’ve been involved in this area of technology several times in my career and each time previously found the hardware and tools very limiting compared to my creative ambitions.  Not so anymore!  I hope, therefore, you find this article as inspiring as I did given my professional context.

Another area where 3D depth imaging is poised to change our lives is photography.  We’ve covered light-field technology in several ID articles over the past couple of years, and one area that is taking advantage of the latest R&D is digital imaging.  As author Kurt Akeley from Lytro explains in his Frontline Technology article, “Light-Field Imaging Approaches Commercial Viability,” it is now possible to build cameras using arrays of micro-lenses to capture the light field of a scene for later post-processing and rendering in both 2D and 3D forms.  Imagine being able to capture a complex scene and afterwards being able to digitally process the scene for varying depths of field, focal distance, and even viewpoint.  Kurt’s article describes the underlying optical science and the recent hardware and electronic advances that make this possible.  You can bet I’m putting a light-field camera on my wish list for the near future.

Lighting is a subject that most of us take for granted most of the time – except when we can’t find a flashlight or we need to change a light bulb.  But, as Guest Editor Mike Lu explains in his editorial, this may all be about to change.  We’re learning that not only do our bodies respond to light through changes in our metabolism and circadian rhythms, the color of light is as much or more important than the intensity of the light.  In the first of two articles Mike developed for us, author Jennifer A. Veitch explains how recently discovered photosensitive cells in our eyes appear to be directly linked to circadian regulation, and those cells are most sensitive to a region of blue light between 440 and 540 nm.  These cells send signals to our brains that we are in daylight, or in night, in response to this light energy.  In Jennifer’s Frontline Technology article titled “Light for Life:  Emerging Opportunities and Challenges for Using Light to Influence Well-Being,” we also learn how most of us who work indoors are probably not being exposed to enough of the right blue light for full daytime cycles.  At night, if we watch TVs or use our tablets, we are getting too much blue light and suppressing melatonin in our bodies that we need for proper sleep cycles.  The consequences of decreased melatonin and proper sleep cycles over time have been widely studied and are very serious.  Jennifer’s article contains a great summary of the latest science, its implications for what she refers to as our “well-being,” and some good advice for further areas of research.

One team that is working directly on lighting to control the amount of blue-light exposure is Professor Jwo-Huei Jou and his team from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan.  His group has looked at fire, the dominant source of nighttime lighting for humans for at least the last 2000 years or so.  Fire in the form of candlelight emits light exactly on the black-body-radiation locus and contains very little blue-color energy, making it ideal for indoor nighttime illumination.  In contrast, other light sources such as compact fluorescent bulbs contain a lot of blue energy to give them a relatively high CCT rating.  But at night, those CCFLs could be tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime outside.  In simple terms, if you were to use candles instead of CCFLs to light your home at night you might benefit from a more natural circadian rhythm and more productive sleep due to more natural melatonin cycles.  In their Frontline Technology article, “OLEDs with Candle-Like Emission,” the National Tsing Hua University team describes its development of an OLED luminary using six emitters specially tuned to produce a warm light spectrum that resembles a candle flame, which was shown to reduce melatonin suppression in test subjects.

OLED TVs hold a lot of promise, but so far, high yields and low manufacturing costs have not made the top of the list.  The platform has gotten off to a slow start and could use some help in the form of advances in manufacturing equipment and processes.  This may be coming, as explained in our applications segment this month titled “A Process for Using Oxide TFT over LTPS TFTs for OLED TV Manufacturing.”  In this article, author Kerry L. Cunningham from Applied Materials explains the work his company has done to improve several key process areas in OLED-display manufacturing, including uniformity/ stability of oxide TFTs, dielectric deposition, and barrier-layer fabrication.  These and other important improvements in process and manufacturing equipment will be important steps in bringing large-screen OLED TVs to the price points and quality levels that modern consumers demand.

I mentioned in September that if you looked closely at our masthead it would appear that Information Display magazine is in its 31st year of publication.  But actually, we know now that ID is wrapping up its 51st year of publication.  We were not sure of this until we began talking to people and attempting to unravel the history of this publication.  I think to truly understand the depth of any human endeavor you need to know the history and appreciate the context.  To understand the depth and scale of evolution in the display industry, you need to examine all the incremental steps that happened along the way, especially because the display industry is a unique convergence of many important fields of science.

Over the last 50 years, SID has been at the epicenter of this amazing development of technology, and ID magazine has been the chronicler of that remarkable progression.  Therefore, ID magazine can be our window into the history of our industry.  This is richly illustrated by our own Jenny Donelan in her retrospective article on the history of Information Display magazine, which we are proud to share with you.  Our efforts to digitally archive back issues have resulted in a deeper understanding of just how much has transpired over these years, including an amazing view of people’s visions for the future.  One characteristic of many ID articles is the author’s attempt to envision the future potential of the work and what it does or could mean for the associated products or applications.  Looking at these articles years later gives you a deeper understanding of how people viewed the context of their work and the evolving potential of digital displays.  Some got it right, and some did not, but it’s fun to see what they were thinking.  I hope you take the time to read Jenny’s retrospective and then browse the on-line archive, which we will continue to update as we slowly locate and upload back issues – including the very first issue of ID from 1964!

Before I close this editor’s note, the last one of 2015, I just want to thank everyone who worked so hard to put ID magazine together throughout the year.  Our team of guest editors and contributing editors helped us create a great lineup of articles for 2015 and I cannot thank them enough for their hard work.  Our editorial staff, consisting of Jenny Donelan and Jay Morreale, did an outstanding job managing the editorial and production processes and developing our in-house articles.  Our cover designs this year continued to amaze, thanks to both Jody Robertson-Schramm and Jodi Buckley.  I also want to thank our colleagues at Wiley publishing, including Simone Taylor and Roland Espinosa, who manage sales, final production, and distribution for ID.  It is an honor to work with everyone on this team and I truly hope you enjoy reading the results as much as we enjoy producing them.  As we all approach the holidays, I hope you find time to reflect on the many things that make your lives special, including family and friends that you hold dear.  Life is much more than just the work we do in this industry.  Cherish those things that are most important to you and nurture them so they enrich your life in return.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year!  •