What are Thin Film Displays?


Computer displays continue to develop in ways that are enabling whole new categories of devices. Flexible screens that can wrap around curved surfaces are in prototype, as are small, very thin interactive screens like the Plastic Logic Reader. Thin film screen technology allows displays to be literally printed onto plastic, along with the batteries that power them, enabling the sorts of live motion displays previously only hinted about in Harry Potter movies. Already in the marketplace is “video in print,” very thin flexible displays that can be easily inserted into popular magazines; CBS and Entertainment Weekly were first to demonstrate this new technology in the fall of 2009. When the technology is developed fully it will enable integrated interactive display devices that combine input and output in a single interface, finally realizing the full potential of electronic paper.


Thin film displays, because of their flexibility and low cost, are certain to become part of everyday educational materials like periodicals, textbooks, and imaging tools. Manufacturers like Sony, Phillips, and Samsung are working on bringing flexible and ultra-thin screens to market. Based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, in which the pixels emit their own light, these sorts of screens can be extremely thin. Since no separate light source is required, OLED screens can easily be placed into all manner of devices. While perhaps best thought of as an enabling technology at this point, with learning applications still some years away, the displays thin film technology enables are so cheap and so easily manufactured that whole new categories of devices using them are likely.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Probably some time before useful but great potential to increase access to digital resources in more innovative ways and make the device a disposable commodity - hand-outs of the future! - chris.cobb chris.cobb May 17, 2011.
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, research or information management within the next five years?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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