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Visions of the Future from the SID Conference 9

Posted by Cliff
from the flat-out-pretty dept.
This being Slashdot, I know quite a few of you are interested in any advances in display technology and wearable computing. Well then you might then be interested in some of the happenings that occurred this week in San Jose. The Society for Information Display kicked off their 32nd annual conference this week, featuring the bleeding-edge in display technology, including Organic LED screens and what may be the coolest head-mounts seen yet. You can get the skinny in a report from Chris DiBona.

The following report is from Chris DiBona:

This week the Society for Information Display held their 32nd annual conference at the San Jose McEnery Convention center. I found out about the show because a company I follow, Micro-Optical, a manufacturer of Head Mounted Displays had noted on their site that they would be exhibiting there. The Society for Information Display is a 6000+ member organization representing all aspects of the display industry. In essence if you build something that glows then you probably are a member of SID.

After receiving my press pass and bag-o-stuff, I went straight to the exhibit hall to walk the aisles. Entering into the hall was like stepping into the future. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but the only way that it could have been cooler would be if the lights had been dimmed. Everywhere I looked my eyes fell on something that was either luminescent, gleaming or simply groovy. Maybe I'm just a freak for neat displays, but it was just exciting to see there.

Walking the show floor I saw any number of wonders. There was the 60" HDTV plasma screen that panasonic was showing off, a five foot diagonal screen that was simply awe inspiringly large and beautiful. There was the NEC plasma mounted on Plexiglas (lots of that at this show) so you could see it's innards. There were more LCD flat panels than you could shake a stick at, not to mention the old CRT technology, and let me tell you walking the floors of this show it was clear that CRT's are seriously old news.

One thing I noted was that Organic Light Emitting Displays (technology primer, past slashdot story on OLEDS) were simply everywhere. There were OLEDS for palm devices (one company even had a palm running an OLED sister screen), OLEDS for cell phones, for video and for data. They ranged from a small 64x64 1" screen for a cell phone to the 800x600 13" full color display that Sony promised was on display mounted in their booth. There were monochrome and full color screens and I left the SID show knowing that OLED is the future, big time, so get used to it. While it won't supplant LCDs in the short term, you can bet by mid-decade they will be at least as ubiquitous as LCDs, if not more so. The OLED displays are simply put, beautiful. Extremely viewable, bright and clear.

Also at the show were the LCD manufacturing support people, advertising the substrates, cutters and adhesives that make panels possible. This stuff was mostly beyond me, but I goggled at the laser cutter they had going that was cutting glass panels there on the floor. Also on the floor was company that makes the panel enclosures for military and ruggidized applications.

One thing that also impressed was an almost palm sized high-density 1200x1600 LCD screen. Samsung had a palmtop style demo that was pretty amazing. They showed full color high density text and it was exceptionally readable and super cool. (see pictures below).

As I noted, the reason I was at this show was to check out Micro-optical's HMDs. They didn't disappoint, in fact, if there was any disappointment it was that they weren't passing out freebies to the press. Their HMDs are mems-based and very, very small. Mounting on the side of or as part of a normal pair of glasses. Ranging from 20 to 52 grams, the company offers 2 resolutions, 320x200 and 640x480, however the in glass mounted , and thus easier to disguise, model only handles 320x200. That said, the one that mounts on the temple they now offer in a variety of really bitchin' colors. They can be operated from one of those Sony camcorder batteries if you are away from a socket.

I of course tried them on, adapting to them was a little weird at first but the potential for this stuff is mind boggling. The display that was mounted as part of the glass was more troublesome as they actually have to be fitted by an optometrist so I sort of had to hold the spectacles in an odd manner, but that was okay. The image was a bit dimmer than the on-temple one, but they offer a brighter monochrome mode that is much easier to resolve. Having the image floating there in front of you can be a bit disorienting as your eye is trying to focus on too many things at once, I'd imagine you'd get used to it pretty quickly, but if I were to purchase it, I'd probably select a sunglass for them to mount it on to aid the transition.

To wrap up, the future is OLEDs and me saving up money to become a Stephensonesque gargoyle. Another interesting thing about the conference is the realization that there was absolutely no-one that I knew from the local or national open source scene. It was pretty refreshing in its way, and it really drives home how much is going on in technology at any one time. It's great being part of this business.

Resources:

Society for Information Display
A small picture gallery from the show.

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Visions of the Future from the SID Conference

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