Every kid knows that bendable straws are way cooler than straight ones. Well, one display manufacturer is hoping the same fundamental principle applies to TV screens, too.
It looks like something out of science fiction, but it’s real: a foldable, flexible, touch-sensitive screen. At a recent Japanese tech trade show, Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. Ltd (SEL) demonstrated a full-size tablet that can be folded into thirds, bringing it down to about the size of a smartphone.
You might imagine such a device would simply be three separate screens on hinges, but SEL’s design is way cooler than that. The screen is a single, 8.7-inch OLED display that bends, maintaining full touch-screen functionality even when it’s not laying flat.
Curved screens have been showcased before, like on LG’s G Flex, Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note Edge, and several Samsung OLED TVs. However, all of those products have a fixed curve, or a very limited range of motion. We’ve never seen a commercially available screen that's meant to bend and fold at will.
GSM Arena reports that SEL’s trifold display can bend 100,000 times without breaking—more than enough for day-to-day use. Still, we're unsure how useful a bending screen is without other bendable components, like processors, memory chips, and batteries.
Ultimately, that's not SEL's problem. Although the company is one of the pioneers of flexible screen technology, it doesn’t manufacture consumer electronics. Instead, it supplies the name-brands you see in stores with licensed technology. So it's likely that, if they judge it to be feasible for the mass market, LG, Samsung, or some other consumer electronics giant could work with SEL to incorporate this new tech into new tablets, smartphones, or TVs.
Those are just the practical applications. We wouldn’t be surprised if someone with a ton of money has SEL build them a foldable TV that can be rolled up like a scroll, or maybe even wallpaper an entire room with a giant touch-screen.
Sadly, there's no word yet on when we’re going to see this kind of flexible screen in an actual product. There’s also no info on how much it costs, or how feasible it is to mass-produce. Until then, we’ll just have to live with the normal, non-bendy screens on our TVs, tablets, and e-readers.
Via: Digital Trends