While the world’s tech media may be directed at the on-going battle in the smartphone universe, there is another area that should probably be gaining their attention even more. Plastic electronics are on their way, after years of speculation and theory, as Plastic Logic have unveiled their colour video capable e-paper. This technology not only allows an e-reader to display colour animation but its organic nature lends it more in the way of flexibility than its man-made predecessors. The technology could end up having wider implications for the tech sector simply due to this fact: you can bend it.
Indeed, the company sees their screen as being nigh-on indestructible, a fact that won’t be lost on smartphone users. You see, according to Plastic Logic’s research, almost 1 in 4 employees has accidently damaged an electronic device at work, costing companies a whopping £1 billion a year in replacements. With smartphones accounting for 63% of these damaged devices, there is definitely a market for change but can Plastic Logic deliver this technology?
Desirability or Usability?
The crux of the matter lays in the screen’s capabilities. While a completely flexible and unbreakable screen would be fantastic, a new iPad is going to be a lot more pleasing on the eye. The technology used in this colour screen is such that a second layer that provides the colour is placed over the flexible screen. So, while the original grey scale screen has 150 pixels per inch, the simple use of colour restricts this down to a meagre 75 ppi.
What does this mean for you and me, however? While traditional, displays have undergone huge advances, there are still some major headaches to overcome, not least of which is the battery drain. How many of you charge your phone every night after the battery has been depleted from a normal days work? While these man-made screens eat up battery life, these flexible organic e-paper displays only use power when they refresh. Much like a regular book, only when you turn the page do you expend any energy. Again, like a regular paper book, when you drop a plastic electronic device, it will remain unscathed – even more so than a book. Its complete flexibility is what gives this technology such credence, even if it is not quite where we would all like it to be yet.
The Future is Near
There is one thing about these colour, video enabled screens that really does bode well however. Plastic Logic have not only managed to fuse two layers together to provide the colour, but they’ve also managed to ensure that both layers flex exactly the same as each other. Without this, the screen would bend out of shape. As it is, this is something that can turn into a major innovation.
It’s not inconceivable that we could all be using completely flexible, foldable tablet computers in the not so distant future. Yet the demand for higher definition screens with rapid refresh rates sees this technology take a back seat in the meantime. Yet, if I were you, I’d keep an eye open.