The Future Is Here with OLED Technology

In 2002, the movie Minority Report was quite a sensation for a scene hailed as the epitome of science fiction: Tom Cruise was seen analysing criminal acts about to happen on a transparent glass-like screen. There was seemingly no cable or component that made the screen work, events could be seen from both sides of it and the hero could drag and drop scenes, enlarge them, or dismiss them with a flick of the hand. It was definitely über cool.

Although touch-screen technology existed, it wasn’t back then as widespread as it is now, and any type of screens came with a casing of some sort, so this sheet-thin screen was definitely out of this world.

We are not yet at the stage where this can become reality, but we have certainly come a lot closer since Minority Report. LEDs and the miniaturisation of components spelt the end of heavy TV screens with a huge casing behind them, and the public’s appetite for portable and high-resolution devices has made research into that area a worthwhile investment.

But LEDs are not the end of the road. There is a new generation taking its first steps, OLED, the next stage in the evolution process which brings futuristic devices closer to reality.

You know of LED, of course, but what on Earth are OLEDs? The “O” stands for “organic”: the electroluminescent layer that emits lights when stimulated by electric current is made of organic compound.

OLED currently use a glass substrate but there is much research done into replacing them with plastic substrate. This would indeed be a true revolution as it would allow LEDs to be integrated into a flexible layer, making them much more resistant to damage and much lighter. It would also undoubtedly find applications in wearable technology: illuminated clothing that changes colour to reflect your mood; fitness bracelets; smart glasses displaying information as you walk about, smart watches and medical bracelets constantly monitoring people with acute conditions – these are but a few possibilities.

OLEDs are already being used in TVs, mobile phones, tablets and digital cameras with great success because they offer a higher visual quality than LEDs do, and the big players in technology such as Sony Ericson, LG, Google, Motorola and Samsung have launched several products using them over the last decade.

Samsung, for example, brought to market the Galaxy Round, a device with a 1080-pixel screen, and the Samsung Gear VR, a head-mounted VR (Virtual Reality) headset, while LG launched the fabulous “Floating Art Slim”, a 77in screen at an astounding 4000-pixel resolution which you can set to be flat or curved.

The adoption of OLEDs is still slow due to their high cost, as is often the case with new technologies, but the thousands of patterns registered by big players relating to OLEDs attest of the potential of the field. There is no doubt that OLEDs are on the verge of bringing some very exciting changes to our everyday life.

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