ASU Develops World’s First Flexible Touchscreen Display
by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor
Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center (FDC) recently unveiled the world’s first flexible touchscreen display. Developed in conjunction with E Ink Corporation and DuPont Teijin Films, the active matrix display is capable of real-time user input, and can send and receive information. The applications for such a device, particularly in the military sector, are endless.
Like a PDA, this display supports real-time user input through a stylus or touch. Information can be stored, received, or sent wirelessly. The device also shares the energy-saving properties of standard electronic paper (e-paper). Until activated, the device can hold a static image indefinitely. Savvy readers are aware of this capability in E-book readers.
The trifecta enabling this technology include: the Flexible Display Center’s low-temperature thin film transistor technology, DuPont Teijin Films’ Teonex polyethylene napthalate (PEN) films and E Ink’s Vizplex–ink laminate. Mix them all together and you’ve got active matrix electrophoretic (electronic paper) displays. A low-power display controller that was co-developed by E Ink and Epson allows the touchscreen capability.
The display is intended for the military market, and one needn’t look far to find practical application. The sample display above suggests it could eventually supplement or replace the current Common Access Cards (CAC, i.e. the standard ID cards for all military personnel– see left). CACs currently have a three-year expiration date, after which it needs to be renewed, similar to drivers’ licenses. With this new display, one could simply upload a new photo and biographical information. Additionally, the ability to send and receive data could enable increased security measures.
When soldiers go on patrol, they often bring a number of “cheat sheets” related to mission parameters and standard military procedures (such as the “9 Line Medevac,” i.e. the method for radioing in assistance for a casualty). These sheets are usually strewn throughout the tactical vehicle (i.e. a humvee or something similar) or on the individual soldier. Similar to how NFL quarterbacks use wristbands for play calling (see right), soldiers could wear a relatively unobtrusive article containing a list of procedures. Of course, they could also receive mission updates, though this may be accomplished quicker with a tactical radio.
One thing is abundantly clear– whether or not this particular display catches on, the technology will. The industry is embracing touchscreen technology at a geometric rate, and this is the natural evolution. ASU’s display should be available sometime in mid to late 2010.