Sunday, June 10, 2012

Found on the Way Home from Display Week 2012

While returning home from Display Week, I noticed a large interactive digital sign offering game play in the San Francisco airport. The sign (pictured below) is made up of nine tiled 46-in. LCDs. The touch system is optical multi-touch, with cameras and scanning lasers mounted in a protruding circular housing visible at the top center of the sign.

(Photo by Author)

The object of the game was to match eight pairs of simple icons as quickly as possible (the boat outline above the “Touch to Start” instructions is an example of the icons). It sounds easy, but I found it to be surprisingly difficult. I tried the game four times, and the best time I could achieve was 1 minute and 8 seconds. The “Time to beat” was 25 seconds. I suspect that that time was produced by multiple people playing simultaneously (the touch system is multi-touch, after all). Every time I played it, people stopped to watch, but nobody volunteered to join me.

The supplier of the sign is Monster Media, a leader in non-traditional advertising. The video montage on its home page is well worth watching; it runs at least a couple of minutes before repeating. One curious aspect of this particular sign is that it never showed any advertising; perhaps it was between campaigns.--Geoff Walker, Walker Mobile

Touch-Screen Buttons with No Touch Screen

Azoteq, a South African fabless chip company exhibiting in the Quinn Pacific booth, is showing a very clever application of capacitive proximity-sensing. In the photo below, the buttons across the bottom of the screen would normally be implemented via a touch-screen; actually they’re implemented by sensing pads in the opaque bezel below the screen. The sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio of the Azoteq proximity-sensing chip are so high that touching the on-screen buttons is indistinguishable from touching real touch-screen buttons, even though the actual sensors are more than an inch away.

(Photo by Author)

This allows virtual touch-screen functionality to be implemented in devices such as printers, copiers, ATMs, VoIP phones, and point-of-sale devices at extremely low cost – because there’s no touch screen! The exact shape of the proximity-sensing field can be controlled so that only the button shapes are active; touching above, below or between the buttons has no effect. The proximity-sensing chip can also be used to wake up the device, thereby reducing standby power consumption. This is only one specific application of Azoteq’s proximity-sensing and user-interface technology; contact Azoteq (or Quinn Pacific, which is offering Azoteq’s patent portfolio for sale) for more information. -- Geoff Walker, Walker Mobile

Stantum’s Newest Digital-Resistive Touch-Panel

Stantum has partnered with Nissha Printing in Japan to create an updated version of Stantum’s iVSM (Interpolated Voltage-Sensing Matrix) digital-resistive touch-panel technology called “Fine Touch Z”. The primary change is the addition of the transparent, pressure-sensing material made by Peratech in the UK. (See the article in the January 2012 issue of Information Display for a detailed look at Peratech’s quantum-tunneling technology.) A typical Fine Touch Z sensor consists of a PET substrate patterned with the ITO columns, a layer of Peratech’s material only a few microns thick, and a PET cover-sheet printed with cover-glass decoration and patterned with the ITO rows. The cover sheet has a 9H hardcoat, which may be the first time this level of durability has been available in any resistive touch-panel. Sensors will be available in the 5-in. to 12-in. range. In current prototypes there is a small air-gap containing a few extremely small spacer dots between the Peratech material and the cover-sheet; Stantum and Nissha intend to refine the sensor manufacturing process to eliminate the need for the air-gap.

The row & column spacing of the iVSM digital matrix hasn’t changed; it’s still around 1.5 mm, which produces excellent high-resolution handwriting.An additional improvement is a significant reduction in the minimum activation force; it’s now only 2 or 3 grams, which is essentially indistinguishable from p-cap’s “zero gram” activation force. The primary advantage of Stantum’s iVSM core technology is the ability to use simultaneous finger and passive stylus with only a single sensor; adding the Peratech pressure-sensing material adds z-axis sensitivity with 256 levels. This allows the stylus to produce very fine artwork with varying line widths, or capture the full dynamics of a signature. Nissha’s substantial touch-panel manufacturing resources should allow Stantum’s technology to be much more readily accessible in prototyping and production volumes; this has been somewhat of a problem in the past due to Stantum’s IP-licensing-only business model. The photo below shows a sample sensor produced by Nissha; note the extremely narrow borders in spite of the high node-count required by 1.5 mm squares. --Geoff Walker, Walker Mobile

Photo by author

Friday, June 8, 2012

Applications Abound in E Ink’s Booth at Display Week

E Ink, the company that dominates the front-plane electrophoretic e-book reader (EBR) space, strutted its stuff this year at Display Week with an impressive booth that showed off a myriad of applications from conventional EBRs to low-power emergency public signage (think critical tsunami escape route data) operating under no-power disaster conditions.

It’s about the huge number of possible applications, and demonstrating what E Ink partners have done to solve everyday problems with low-power, always-on display solutions that are daylight readable, rugged, and most importantly, green, as Director of Product Management Giovanni Mancini told us.

New at the show were faster next-generation color displays, EBRs with front-lights for night-time reading, and cool unique implementations like a retail case lock with built-in display features, plus the latest driver chip technology from partners like Epson, who just announced a low-power SoC (S1D13M01) that features a MIPS-24 Kef CPU core with display controller that is optimized for next-generation reader and tablet devices.

E Ink’s booth was a real stand-out on the show floor. Unlike most companies that filled the space with ribbon cabled electronic components wired to the latest prototypes, the company instead chose to feature cool new product concepts that highlight just how creative designers can get with electronic ink. For example, for the E Ink display products targeting daylight readability, the company filled a portion of the booth with ambient-bright sunlight using special stage lighting to help show off the true capabilities of its electronic ink technology. Display ruggedness was almost understated, with E Ink panels built into a “cross-walk” demo, right on the booth floor. You’re suddenly hit with the notion that this stuff is so robust, you can walk on it, directed by – yep, you guessed it – a low-power E Ink stop light that uses the reflective power of the sun, saving both energy and cost by drastically reducing the number of high-bright LEDs needed to direct traffic.

We were told that kudos should go to Jenn Vail, Sr. Manager of Marketing at E Ink, who achieved a zen-like, almost museum-quality exhibit for the show with an open architecture design and elements of Feng Shui energy flow that invited-in the show goers to sample the next wave in electrophoretic displays. One last note: true to its innovation heritage, E Ink sponsored the wildly popular Innovation Zone. or I-Zone for short, at Display Week this year. This was a hit of the show, bringing in emerging technology of all types that normally wouldn’t have an opportunity for this kind of mass exposure. Well done. - Steve Sechrist


It's been four years since I first set foot on the exhibit floor of Display Week, and one of the first people I met was E Ink VP Sri Peruvemba, who was patient enough to explain to me not only what his company did but the background of the entire e-Reader market.

Back then, the booth was a sea of monochrome products, with perhaps one or two color prototypes. These days, as color e-Paper takes off, E Ink's booth has become a more colorful place. It's exciting to see a technology evolve like this one has.

As ID reporter Steve Sechrist notes above, E Ink's booth was extremely well-designed (and also a big attention-getter, judging from the number of people crowding around it) and the company had lots of cool concept products to show, including a waterproof kayak display and a display for a handheld drill. Below is a picture of Sri Peruvemba (left) and me in front of the aforementioned E Ink stoplight. -- Jenny Donelan, Information Display

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Samsung's Crowd Control and (Very) Pretty Pictures

Kudos to Samsung for its thoughtfully designed 55-in. OLED TV exhibit at this year's show. Of course, it would be hard to make a 55-in. OLED TV look bad, but what was great about this setup was how Samsung showed three of the panels in three different implementations, and also controlled the flow of onlookers – it can be difficult to get a good look at a popular product like this on the show floor.

As shown in the picture below, the viewing queue (helpfully delineated with arrows on the floor), moved behind a roped-off area from the dual-view (at right), to the 2D view (middle) and finally to the 3D view (left). Friendly attendants stood by to answer questions – or perhaps to wake you up in case you ended up transfixed by the more-luscious-than-life imagery on the screens.

The dual-view implementation allows two viewers to watch--and hear--completely different content on the same screen. Both 2D and 3D views were spectacular. --Jenny Donelan, Information Display

LG Shows 4.5-inch AS3D Mobile Display Using Eye-Tracking

Beyond the groundbreaking 55-inch AMOLED TV shown in the LG booth, the company is also featuring a new 4.5-inch AS-3D display that uses eye tracking to deliver what it calls Viewing Angle Free 3D. Panel brightness/ resolution is 500cd/m2 /720 x 1280 in 2D and the display also delivers a 220 cd/m2 at 720 x 640 pixel image in AS-3D mode. The display prototype comes in a package with a camera mounted for eye-tracking /face detection, which LG Vice President BK Kim, head of the IT Mobile Development group, told us has less than 0.5% cross talk (center) and offers a viewing angle of 48-degrees in both h and v directions at a viewing distance of 30 to 35 cm.

Beyond this proof-of-concept prototype, the group plans to develop a 7- to 10-inch commercial display to target AS3D for the tablet market. Games are a natural fit, and the booth demo featured a compelling 3D game view that really showed off the technology. – Steve Sechrist

Qualcomm Shows mirasol HD Color Display

At Display Week this year, Qualcomm showed off its latest mirasol display prototype, a ground breaking 4.3-inch module in 1280 x 720 (HD) resolution with a 343 ppi (retinal-class) display capable of full motion video (30Hz.)

mirasol’s director of engineering, Pavan Mulabagal told us the prototype device will be sampling soon to select OEM customers looking for color, outdoor readability, always-on functionality in a “green” package.

The high-density pixel configuration is in-line with the current trends moving toward retinal-class displays, found in just about all mobile display devices going forward. That, coupled with inherent low power and full motion video support, make the mirasol reflective technology “a perfect fit for the move to color e-book readers," Mulabagal noted.

The mirasol display technology took the Display of the Year Silver Award at Display Week for recognition of its bright sunlight readability and low battery power requirements. Qualcomm also recently made the MIT Technology Review’s 2012 TR50 List for commercial innovations most likely to change lives around the world. mirasol’s marketing director Elisabeth Eller told us that with commercial products using the Mmirasol display already shipping in Asia, the launch of this HD prototype brings the company to a key milestone in its march toward bringing this low-power, daylight readable display to the mainstream. – Steve Sechrist