If you were one of the few readers of printed books in 2007 who crossed the divide into digital reading, your options were sparse and expensive. The original Amazon Kindle, for example, cost $400, and its screen displayed only four shades of gray.
Today, digital readers are much cheaper and come with significantly better displays and storage space. And they are set to take on new shapes and sizes, with an accompanying decrease in price. Some computer developers envision tablet computers so flexible that you can roll them up and slip them in your bag or pocket, just as you would do with a newspaper or magazine today.
The military is helping lead the way to that future. Arizona State University's Flexible Display Center (FDC) is working with the US Army to build flexible, nonbreakable screens and devices for use on the battlefield.
"Truly bendable displays have other engineering challenges to solve just beyond making the screens bend," FDC Director Nick Colaneri tells the New York Times. "Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see some start to make it to market in innovative designs in the next three to five years."
The FDC announced in June 2009 the first a-Si:H active matrix flexible OLED display to be manufactured directly on DuPont Teijin's polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) substrate.
The flexible display uses Universal Display Corp.'s phosphorescent organic light-emitting diode (PHOLED) technology and materials and the FDC's proprietary, low-temperature process and bond-debond manufacturing technology.
The Army, which is funding research at the center, is one of many possible users for such a flexible screen. The 4.1-inch monochrome quarter video graphics array (QVGA) also has potential as a wearable computer application.