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Will innovation drive displays into post-touchscreen era?

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:display? Touch Taiwan? touchscreen?

Editor's note: Display vendors constantly face the challenge of keeping pace with new technologies and changing market trends. EE Times' Junko Yoshida offers a few highlights from Touch Taiwantechnologies that include "Anywhere Surface Touch" and dual-screen smartphone.

Touch panels have become such a mainstay of our everyday gadgets that many of us are already taking them for granted. At Touch Taiwan show last week, I saw display vendors mired in the battle over ever-narrowing bezels, and the never-ending pixel-per-inch war. As I examined the proliferation of display technologies, I found myself getting lost in the weeds.

AUO, alone, is spreading its resources wide and thin as it works on four different display technologies, ranging from amorphous silicon (a-Si) and low temperature Polycrystalline Silicon (LTPS) to oxide TFT and OLED.

So many panels on display at the show were breathtakingly beautiful. Does a narrow bezel matter? Absolutely. Do consumers want more PPI? You bet. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but roll my eyes when the discussion kept coming back to whether a 1mm border is really that much worse than 0.7mm for a 5-inch full HD high resolution smartphone panel.

I understand that specs are life-or-death for engineers. But all this "specmanship" is killing Taiwan's display vendors. To make matters worse, the fierce price competition just keeps escalating. Vendors are scrambling to devise new (and possibly more simplified) manufacturing processes, while staying constantly on the lookout out for new materials.

Display vendors, in general, are also clobbered by rapidly changing market trends. Declining e-reader demands worldwide, for example, have affected E-Ink. (However, I was pleasantly surprised to see E-Ink displays smartly designed into some of the most inventive smartphones featuring dual screens.)

Meanwhile, the growing education market for media pads and electronic whiteboards is asking for larger touch screenswhere pupils can use a pen instead of a finger. The logic is intuitive: Teaching kids how to write on a touch screen that only recognises fingers must be tough.

Sharp, although a latecomer to the touch screen market, demonstrated a large-screen projected capacitance technology that can also respond to a passive stylus. Sharp is leveraging a new analogue front-end IC it developed to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. It's specifically designed for a large-surface multi-capacitance touch screen.

Although it's too early to predict the end of an era for touch screens, it was interesting to hear Tetsuya Hayashi, one of the keynote speakers, talking about development activities around post-touch screen technology in Japan. Hayashi, deputy director of Nikkei BP ICT Innovation Research Institute, illustrated the future of display technology as "ambient," "free-form," and "wearable." Images, he foresaw, will be projected on any surface or in the air, instead of being constrained to a rigid, bulky box.

In the following pages, I'll offer a few highlights of my exploration at this year's Touch Taiwan.

4K screen

No display technology show would be complete without 4K screens. Innolux shows off what the company calls a "true 4K" 85-inch LCD TV module.

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