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OPLIN 4cast #343: On displays

Posted in 4cast

smart watchThe next big technology excitement looks like it may be the advent of smart watches – or maybe not. Smart watches in themselves are probably not going to initiate changes to library tech, but some of the new technologies in smart watches may eventually migrate to other technologies. For example, some smart watch makers are preparing to use new color display technology that requires much less power than current power-hungry LCD displays, so their watches can make do with smaller batteries. That kind of technology could conceivably find its way into self-contained low-power digital displays – like library signage, perhaps?

  • What I learned from researching almost every single smart watch that has been rumored or announced (Quartz/Christopher Mims) “Qualcomm’s rumored smart watch, for example, supposedly uses Mirasol, a kind of reflective, full-color display that requires no power unless it’s being updated. (Mirasol displays color by refracting light like a butterfly’s wings, rather than emitting actual red, green and blue light, like an LCD.)”
  • This is cool: Qualcomm shows off its Mirasol display (Ars Technica/Florence Ion) “The Mirasol display is touted for its energy-efficiency. It offers a six-times-over power advantage compared to both LCD and OLED displays, which means it would be the kind of display that a smartphone would make great use of. It’s made with a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) based on Interferometric Modulation (IMOD) technology….”
  • Qualcomm invests second $60 million in Sharp for next-gen displays (PC World/Jay Alabaster) “Traditional LCD screens have a white back light that sits behind an array of liquid crystal pixels, each paired with a color filter to allow light of a certain color to pass. MEMs screens use a back light that cycles through a sequence of colors, synchronized with an array of tiny shutters that serve as pixels, flashing open briefly to let certain colors through. The MEMS shutters have a faster reaction time than LCD pixels, and don’t require color filters so the back light needs less power to operate.”
  • Qualcomm’s next-gen Mirasol display goes Retina (Digital Trends/Saul Berenbaum) “Most notably, there is a silvery tint and lack of color brightness on the screens. Some glow is also noticeable on the edges, but the benefits are clear. Glare is reduced and battery life is improved by about six times, compared to the LCD and OLED screens found on most smartphones and tablets today. Though it’s not as vivid as an LCD screen, we could easily see it being adopted by a number of devices, and it could open the gates for other new types of displays.”

MEMS fact:
You might get the impression from the quotes above that micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are specifically used for displays, but the term applies to any electronics system built with components that are less than 100 micrometers in size. A micrometer is one-thousandth of a millimeter, and at these extremely small sizes, the standard rules of classical physics do not always apply.