JISC: Advanced Display Technologies

JISC: Advanced Display Technologies (Word doc)

A key trend in the development of displays is that, in general, we are moving to a more multimedia-driven culture and that content itself is evolving. We are witnessing a convergence of TV, computers and developments in bandwidth, and these are paving the way for the introduction of High Definition content (HD video and HDTV) accessed via the Web, satellite, cable and DVD discs (see section 5.3).

These developments will tend to drive people's awareness of the display technology they are using. In particular, the move to HDTV is driving development of large, flat screen display technologies in those markets (USA, Japan) where this format is becoming widespread. This means that the 1920 x 1080 resolution will become the base standard for display devices. The same will apply to the forthcoming introduction of 3-D: educational content that becomes available, through, for example, games and 3-D virtual models of museum exhibitions and buildings, will build awareness of what these new technologies are capable of and drive expectations about what can be delivered. In this context it is worth noting that often the software and the content last a lot longer than the display hardware (Brodlie, 2004).

However, a more interesting development is that microdisplay technologies are helping to facilitate the introduction of near-to-eye or 'heads-up' systems, and the production of lightweight, wearable, personal head-mounted displays with screens. The user wears the screens like a pair of glasses and sees an image in front of the eyes at the same time as being able to view the real world. Although currently the systems are somewhat bulky and obvious, it is expected that as the screen technology is miniaturised and embedded in the frame they will be indistinguishable from a pair of spectacles or sunglasses in a few years' time. Wireless connection to other peripherals and desktop systems is also expected shortly.

Near-to-eye systems have been used extensively by the military and by vehicle repair and servicing personnel (Murray, 2004) and are increasingly being taken up by surgeons and other medical staff (Patsuris, 2004). As costs fall and techniques improve, the education and consumer markets will begin to open, with one leading industry commentator expecting to see a $1 billion market by 2008, partly driven by near-to-eye personal TV (Insight Media, 2004).

Such developments also point to a potential rise in the number of people actively engaged in augmented reality – interacting with data at the same time as viewing and working in the real world – and a number of commercial companies are working in this area.

An alternative technology pathway is being opened up by scanned-beam displays in which tiny lasers or light-emitting diodes project light directly into the viewer's retina. The first display systems based on this concept are being introduced in augmented reality scenerios particularly for automotive service personnel (Lewis, 2005). One system, Nomad, is being developed by Microvision Inc, of Bothell, Washington. They have produced a clear, flat window, with a small (1.5mm) mirror which is angled in front of the viewer's eyes and reflects mono-colour (red) laser light into the retina in a sweeping pattern.

Such systems currently use red laser light, as the diodes that generate red are small and fairly cheap. Developments in blue and green diode lasers will shortly allow delivery of full colour scanned systems. Research work is on-going into the development of such systems for 3D display using the optics of deformable mirrors (McQuaide, 2002), which offer advantages over other 3D systems.

The integration of these types of systems with mobile and PDA devices is seen as a potentially major development. As device sizes shrink the screen size becomes more of an issue as there is a lack of space or 'screen real-estate' for information (Anderson and Blackwood, 2004). Microdisplay technologies promise a new way of viewing information on mobile phones and PDA devices (see Chinnock, 2000) and some industry commentators believe that mobile video and TV will be a key driver in the development of this market (Forbes, 2005).

The long term future of the display, like computing in general, is one of increasing intelligence and ubiquity where the difference between the display and our surrounding environment begins to blur. We are likely to see convergence of a number of technologies in computer and displays development including cheap, flexible, printable display surfaces; display projection; near-to-eye systems for augmented reality; anthrocentric displays.

We will see a move towards the disappearance of the display screen as a fixed office-based entity, as part of the general trend towards ubiquitous computing or ubicomp.

The developments in near-to-eye displays could have the most far reaching implications. If such systems become cost effective and practical they will inevitably merge with continuing developments in mobile computation to help facilitate an always-on, augmented reality. Just as many people now constantly carry a mobile phone, they may also constantly wear glasses that provide near-to-eye visual display. This will perhaps allow an individual to augment their reality in a personalised manner: imagine a lecture in which the lecturer delivers her talk whilst extra notes and visual information are presented to each student’s individual eye wear, personalised for them, based on their level of attainment in the subject.

As we have seen, the nature of displaying information is changing. The traditional model with a bulky desktop or TV display allocated to perhaps one per person or per household is rapidly disappearing. Screens are becoming flatter, are appearing in an increasing range of environments and technical gadgets are providing new formats of content. Soon the screen may disappear altogether. The pace of this change can only increase in coming years and the changing nature of the display of information will have implications for education as much as any other area of society.
Thanks to view from afar.


  1. Read about Lumus of Israel in the source document for this post .Theirs seems to be a directly competing technology to MVIS besides they have clearly outlined their application areas.And the other notable thing is Motorola ventures is investing in Lumus which was one of the things i have been wondering about lately as to why the big boys of the mobile phone market are not sitting up and noticing MVIS seems like atleast one of the biggest players (Motorola) has already bet on Lumus. Which way are the others like Nokia, Samsung leaning .Also what does this mean for MVIS's prospects ?


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