OLED: The Future of Display Technology- NAB 2008 Update

oled sony front displayThis is my second post in a series of updates of exciting new media technology I saw at the 2008 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting just finishing up in Las Vegas. My intro to the meeting can be found here.

In this post I want to review the most exciting new display technology I saw on multiple fronts at the meeting- and share with you my predictions of how it will be used in medicine in the future. This technology is OLED

OLED represents the next step in the future of video display technology. I have previously written about what the technology is and how it works here. The technology was introduced commercially by Sony at the 2007 CES meeting also in Vegas (the home of all new media conventions). Currently flat panel technology is dominated by LCD’s and plasma displays – the limitations of which have been extensively reviewed elsewhere,

The Importance of Display Technology and its Market:

The display used to watch video is the final link that determines ultimate picture quality. The size of the current consumer flat panel TV market is estimated at $80-$100 Billion. I don’t have to say that number twice to convince you why consumer electronics giants will push the limit of display technologies creating the raw materials for medical displays in the process. This happened with CRT’s, LCD’s , and plasmas in the OR.

Let me be the first to predict- OLED will 100% dominate OR surgical displays as the technology matures. Not to mention the potential for their use in head mounted displays (HMD’s) and alternate display technologies.

I was enormously impressed by several features of the first OLED displays I laid my hands on. – my favorites are highlighted below

  1. Fantastic brightness and contrast ratio. This 11″ model i looked at had a contrast ration greater than 1,000,000:1 (not a typo).
  2. Excellent grayscale
  3. Full-motion video without ghosting
  4. Wide viewing angles from all directions
  5. A wide range of pixel sizes
  6. Low power consumption
  7. Low operating voltages
  8. Wide operating temperature range
  9. Long operating lifetime
  10. A thin and lightweight form factor
  11. Cost-effective manufacturability

oled side viewHere is an an example of the unbelievable wide viewing angle of OLED displays. When you look at standard LCD displays the brightness and ultimately entire image falls off as you start to look from the side angle. This has been a big problem for me with LCD displays in the OR for endoscopic surgery. When we operate as a team often the assistant or nurse need their own separate monitors since they are unable to get a bright clear image viewing my image from a tangential angle.

The OLED looked even better than this since there is a bit of a glare reflection from my camera’s flash.

thin oled display

Here is a view of just how thin these displays are. The screens themselves can be made 0.3 mm thick in current implementations.

sony pro oled

This was Sony’s implementation of OLED for the broadcast pros demo’d at NAB 2008. The HDVF-EL100 is an OLED viewfinder for pro video TV cameras. The same wide viewing angle, incredibly thin dimensions and low heat that will benefit it in the OR went into choosing it for this use as well.

As Engadget HD said- you can see these OLED displays from a mile away.

I had an opportunity to chat with the engineers about OLED and what is delaying its dominance of the market. They said that currently maufacturing becomes problematic as sizes increase leading also to cost escalations.  In addition they are produced in totally new types of production factories which are currently being built- such as the Samsung 8G LCD factory.  There is no doubt these issues will be overcome with current development.

Update:  for those interested in truely amazing future potential for OLED read here about a version that is on a flexible material that can simply be rolled up in testing now by the US Army.

Also – it appears mainstream OLEDs will hit the consumer markets in large number in 2009-2011.  Samsung predicts 2008/2009 while LG predicts a 32 inch version in 2011.  Details are here.

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