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New Frontiers for Digital Displays

New Frontiers for Digital Displays

By Bob Kronman at Kronman Associates

Science fiction has foreseen many of today’s technical marvels. Robots that can walk or run untethered are marching over the horizon and self-driving cars are being driven on public roads. Global positioning means it’s hard to get lost anywhere on the planet, whether you’re a robot or a human. 

Some predicted innovations, like portable music players and earbuds are in everyone’s hands and ears already. Bluetooth allows us to talk and listen on the go and smartwatches mean we don’t even need to get our phone out to read a message. 

But what about the telephone viewscreens from the Jetson’s cartoon and Captain Kirk’s interactive bridge screen in Star Trek? Digital displays are making these a reality and even better things are coming. 

Display Development

The last 30 years have seen incredible advances in display technology from CRT to LCD and from individual LED diodes to OLED and MicroLED. Every step has brought better resolutions and clarity to televisions, computers and our smart devices. 

In the 1990’s, computer displays were often only able to show green or amber text. Reflecting on the computer graphics improvements over that decade, in 1998 Siemens was able to launch a colour phone that was the start of a revolution. 

While many phones remained black and white and very low resolution (and lower cost), Nokia introduced the 9210 in 2000 with a 640 x 200 display. Other companies soon followed and today’s iPhone 11 boasts a resolution of 1792 x 828, able to reproduce millions of colours and providing stunning detail for games, movies and photos.

From screens to displays

A screen was, not so long ago, the surface that we projected onto. Technology has changed the language so that today, a display is more than just a screen. 

Touch screens and cameras make displays interactive, and we can have meetings with people on every continent at the same time and best of all, in real time.

OLED and MicroLED mean lighter and brighter displays with crisp highly detailed images that make work and leisure a much better experience.

New tech frontiers

Only a few years ago, LED screens were primarily used for outdoor advertising and scoreboards.

The developments in mobile phone and smart device technologies have converged with larger display technologies. Now, with sub-millimetre pixel pitch displays and the miniaturisation of the technology, we see 4K and larger MicroLED TV’s that incorporate gesture and touch control. This, combined with sound, voice control and cameras give a fully interactive and immersive experience. 

Everyone from home users to CEOs in conference rooms, can take control of their screens and their communications. And then take them on the road.

Looking ahead

It’s hard to predict what’s next on the horizon. Science fiction has shown us thousands of ideas that have spawned hundreds of real life products. Digital technology is developing almost every day so we should be asking “what do we really want and need” to make life better.

Perhaps the next step will be virtual screens, holograms that pop up from our smartphones or a watch that we can manipulate in mid-air with the wave of a hand. Wayfinding would be so much easier if we could follow a virtual tour guide without having to carry a map.

VR glasses are here today. Perhaps the next generation might be VR contact lenses or implants we control with a blink. “Spray-on” organic displays are currently being researched and we can only imagine how graffiti will look when it comes to life.

Even after 30 years of working in entertainment, events and digital technology, I’m still looking forward to what the future can deliver. Bring on the warp drive!

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