What are Thin Film Displays?

Computer displays continue to develop in ways that are enabling whole new categories of devices. Flexible screens that can wrap around curved surfaces are in prototype, as are small, very thin interactive screens like the Plastic Logic Reader. Thin film screen technology allows displays to be literally printed onto plastic, along with the batteries that power them, enabling the sorts of live motion displays previously only hinted about in Harry Potter movies. Already in the marketplace is “video in print,” very thin flexible displays that can be easily inserted into popular magazines; CBS and Entertainment Weekly were first to demonstrate this new technology in the fall of 2009. When the technology is developed fully it will enable integrated interactive display devices that combine input and output in a single interface, finally realizing the full potential of electronic paper.

Thin film displays, because of their flexibility and low cost, are certain to become part of everyday educational materials like periodicals, textbooks, and imaging tools. Manufacturers like Sony, Phillips, and Samsung are working on bringing flexible and ultra-thin screens to market. Based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, in which the pixels emit their own light, these sorts of screens can be extremely thin. Since no separate light source is required, OLED screens can easily be placed into all manner of devices. While perhaps best thought of as an enabling technology at this point, with learning applications still some years away, the displays thin film technology enables are so cheap and so easily manufactured that whole new categories of devices using them are likely.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • This would be a groundbreaking innovation in the way we use technology for everything so far done in print and writing. Plus, I wonder in how far (and of course how soon) it will bring about a completely new generation of mobile devices which could be used like we now use paper. Very exciting. - helga helga Nov 18, 2011
  • Absolutely. My sector is libraries, and of course you can imagine the impact of this across media formats. It allows us to reconcieve what a book is (rather than jsut text, images, etc, you can imagine video tutorials, connections to the web, interactive games, even entire books that are a sort of "Choose Your Own Adventure" based on what the reader selects). - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • As table tops, furniture, walls and other surfaces combined with haptic and touch interfaces this could be revolutionary- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Potentially the size and scale of thin film displays have application in every sphere of study, a large wall sized surface to fold up roll out carpets, clothing etc- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • another response here

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • This really changes the game for mobile / multi-screen. Right now the real estate you have on a smart phone or even a tablet can be limiting and calls for the development of numerous form factor appropriate content pieces to deliver to an array of devices. Thin film would allow a user to access lighweight content on a small screen (smart phone) then if they needed more in-depth content, the same devices could be synced to a thin film display. Combine that with a virtual or foldable keyboard and you have learning that can be truly on-demand, anytime, anywhere. - phil.ice phil.ice Nov 19, 2011
  • Would make the internet of things touchable!- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Nintendo Feel and Gaming- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
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