Display Week 2016 Show Daily Highlights

Display Week 2016 Show Daily Highlights

Color e-ink, augmented reality’s relationship with human evolution, and displays for smartwatches that really resemble a watch were only a few of the great discoveries that Information Display’s roving reporters made at Display Week 2016 in San Francisco.

by Information Display Staff

ENGINEERS, developers, analysts, CEOs, investment bankers, and many others headed to San Francisco last May for Display Week 2016.  With a technical symposium, seminars, short courses, business and marketing conferences, and a three-day exhibition that included the always-popular Innovation Zone, Display Week offered more than one person could possibly see.

Fortunately, our team of ace reporters – Achin Bhowmik, Jyrki Kimmel, Steve Sechrist, and Ken Werner – were on the job, homing in on specific areas of technology and sharing their discoveries via blogs throughout the show.  (They are also writing longer articles that will appear in our September/October post-show issue.)

We think the blogs are a fun way to get a taste of the really novel things from the show, so we decided to share several of them in print.  If you want to read more, please visit www.informationdisplay.org.

Augmented and Virtual Reality at Display Week:  Game On!
by Achin Bhowmik

In recent years, virtual reality has moved from science-fiction movies, to academic research labs, to product development in the industry, and, finally, into the hands of consumers in the real world.  A number of marquee devices have been launched into the marketplace, along with some compelling immersive applications.  Some cool augmented-reality devices and developer kits have been released as well.  The recent pace of progress in both virtual- and augmented-reality technologies has been rapid.

In line with this fast-emerging trend in the ecosystem, SID decided to create a special track on Augmented and Virtual Reality for Display Week 2016.  The rich lineup included a short course, a seminar, a number of invited and contributed presentations in the symposium, and demonstrations on the exhibit floor.

Displays are the face of some of the most-used electronic devices in our daily lives – the smartphone, tablet, laptop, monitor, and TV, among other examples.  As such, the health of the display industry rises and falls with the growth and saturation of these devices.  Take the exciting phase of innovation in LCD TV technology as an example.  The screen size went from 24 in. to 32 in. to 40 in. to 55 in. to 80 in. and above.  The resolution went from 720p to full HD to QHD and beyond, whereas the frame rates went from 60 to 120 fps.  And there were many more advances – contrast, brightness, color, etc.  However, it has gotten to the point where further advances in display technology are providing only incremental benefits to the consumer.  This situation often leads to a reduced demand for new features and a slowdown in development, and it is to some degree what those of us in the display industry have been facing.

Let’s now turn to virtual reality.  It’s a completely different story at the moment.  The displays on the best state-of-the-art VR devices today fall way short of the specifications required for truly immersive and responsive experiences, despite the dizzying pace of development.  The pixel density needs to increase significantly and latencies must be reduced drastically, along with many other improvements such as increased field of view, reduced pixel persistence, higher frame rates, etc.  Besides the display, the systems also require the integration of accurate sensing and tracking technologies.  Augmented-reality devices impose additional requirements.

So this is exciting for the researchers and engineers in the industry, who must go back to solving some difficult challenges, with the potential for big returns.  Judging by the excellent quality of the papers, presentations, and exhibitions at the Display Week, it’s obvious the display ecosystem is all geared up.  AR and VR technology is just what the display industry needs for a massive rejuvenation.  Game on!

Wearable Displays Sport Classic Designs
by Jyrki Kimmel

There was a time when watches seemed to go out of fashion.  Everyone could find out what time it was by looking at their mobile-phone screen.  But in the last couple of years, “connected watches” have become a wearable part of the mobile ecosystem and their design has approached that of classic wristwatches (Fig. 1).  The intuitive round-faced hand-dial interface has pulled through, once again.

Fig. 1:  JDI’s Memory-in-Pixel reflective connected watch display offers a traditional rounded watch-face shape.  (Photo by Jyrki Kimmel)

How has this development come about?  Weren’t we satisfied with the function of the square-screen Android devices that appeared in the marketplace about 5 years ago?  Apparently not.

The wearables being demonstrated on the exhibition show floor featured many round-faced watch-sized displays.  The Withings activity monitor, for instance, was featured in the E Ink booth, sporting a reflective e-Paper display in a round design in a futuristic setting and band.

Assuming that customer demand drives the adoption of consumer devices, once the technology to realize these is available, we can infer from the exhibits shown that there is a demand to minimize the bezel and dead space in a watch form-factor display.  Companies are striving to provide a bezelless design similar to what has become possible in mobile-phone displays.  This is much more difficult with a round shape.  AUO has made some progress and explained during two symposium presentations how this can be done using a plastic substrate display.  Instead of placing the driver chip on the face of the display, in a ledge, or using a TAB lead, AUO bends the flexible substrate itself to place the driver at the backside of the display.  In this way, a bezel of 2.2 mm can be achieved, with clever gate-driver placement and by bringing the power lines into the active area from the opposite side of the display face.

Another direction in the development of wearables is a band form-factor display that wraps around the user’s wrist.  Canatu, the Finnish touch-panel maker, was showing an e-ink-based display device from Wove at its booth.  (For more on this device, see “Enabling Wearable and Other Novel Applications through Flexible TFTs” in the March/April 2016 issue)  The touch panel was assembled in an “on-screen” touch fashion to make a complete integral structure without any separate outside encapsulation.  According to Canatu, the entire module thickness is only 0.162 mm.

So, it seems like the technical capabilities in displays are beginning to satisfy user needs in wearable devices.  With the round-faced and band-shaped form factors making it possible to wear a watch again, the “Internet of Designs” can begin.

The Convergence of Human and Display Evolution
by Steve Sechrist

The seminars that are presented on the Monday before Display Week officially begins are invaluable ways to gain knowledge in a particular area in a brief period of time.  One of these courses, “Augmented and Virtual Reality: Towards Life-like Immersive and Interactive Experiences,” given by Intel’s Achin Bhowmik (also one of ID’s roving reporters), treated session attendees to a most unexpected perspective.

The discussion began with the Cambrian Explosion, which Bhowmik explained directly led to the evolution of the human visual system and the basis of key issues those of us in the display industry need to consider today (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2:  About 540 million years ago, most of the types of animals that exist on earth today appeared rather suddenly, during a period that is called The Cambrian Explosion.

It was interesting to observe the overflow crowd of electrical and computer engineers suddenly confronted with the cold hard fact that biology, based on the distribution of photoreceptors in the human eye (yes, rods and cones), is driving key display requirements.  Bhowmik explained that the human fovia consists of only cones (color receptors) and rods.  Cones make up the periphery, with far more (orders of magnitude more) rods than cones in that space.

Resolution and field of view (FOV) were also discussed, with the assertion that we should be talking about pixels per degree (ppd) rather than pixels per inch (ppi) specifications in HMD applications.  Bhowmik said the human eye has an angular resolution of 1/60 of a degree, with each eye’s horizontal field of view (FOV) at 160° and a vertical FOV of 175°.

What all this portends is that the direction of display development is finally moving beyond speeds and feeds.  For significant development to continue, serious consideration needs to be given to how the eye sees images and particularly color.  Maybe it’s time to take a refresher course in Biology 101.

E Ink Shows a Color Electrophoretic Display that Pops
by Ken Werner

The E Ink Carta reflective electrophoretic display (EPD) is a near-perfect device for reading black text on a white background.  But there are applications, such as various types of signage, that demand vibrant color.  Until now, the only way to get “full” color from an EPD – at least the only way that E Ink has shown us – is by placing a matrix color filter in front of the monochrome display.

The problem with this approach for a reflective display is that the 40% of light reflected from a good EPD is brought down to 10–15% by the filter.  This results in a limited gamut of rather dark muddy colors.  E Ink showed the way forward a few years ago with a black, white, and red display, which managed to control particles of three different colors using differences in mobility and a cleverly designed controlling waveform.

At Display Week 2016, E Ink introduced an impressive expansion of this approach, in which particles of four different colors are included within each microcapsule, given different mobilities through different sizing and driven with a pulsed controlling wave movement that permits the creation of thousands of colors, as explained by E Ink’s Giovanni Mancini.

The resulting display showed impressively bright and saturated colors and drew crowds (Fig. 3).  When a new image was written, the display would flash several times.  It took about 10 sec for a new image to build to its final colors.  One possible application Mancini mentioned is a color e-ink sign powered by photocells.

This is a significant development that will definitely expand the range of applications EPD can address.  •

Fig. 3:  E Ink’s full-color electrophoretic display has four colors of particle and no matrix color filter.  (Photo:  Ken Werner)