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New OLED and QDot technology will make televisions as portable as a mobile phone or tablet

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 2015, 11:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:33pm

A decade ago, television sets were as big as an oven and weighed just as much.  In most homes these entertainment-monoliths were hidden away inside huge, purpose-built cabinets - cut to 2015 and concealing your television is a lot simpler.  The latest designs are so thin and flexible that you can peel them off your wall and roll them up like a sheet of cardboard, making them as portable as a mobile phone or tablet.

Korea’s electronic powerhouse LG is among the companies leading the way with its research and development.  Last week, the firm’s subsidiary, LG Display, unveiled its latest prototype – a wallpaper TV so thin and light it can be attached to the wall with only a magnet.  The 55-inch transparent display,  weighing 1.9kg and is less than 1mm thick, is held to the wall by a magnetic mat; to remove the screen you literally peel it off the mat. 

So what is the science behind screens that can be made this lightweight and flexible? LG says it is all thanks to the latest in Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology, which Yeo Sang-deog, head of LG Display’s OLED business, claims is “a groundbreaking technology not only for LG but for the industry”, and one LG intends to “nurture” for the future.  OLED panels are made from organic material that emits light when electricity is passed through it.  Unlike LCD screens, OLED are not back-lit; they provide better contrast to pictures because each pixel produces its own light and can be “turned off”, giving darker blacks, brighter colours and crisper, clearer pictures.  No backlighting also means the screens have fewer components and can be much slimmer than traditional displays. 

In addition, OLED panels have higher screen response rates than traditional LCD televisions, meaning images are clearer and more life-like during fast-pace sequences, say a car race or on a fight on a battlefield.  The flexibility of the panels is thanks to the backside being made with a polyimide film rather than plastic, which allows the entire unit to curve and bend.  A benefit of their thin, light, flexible nature is OLED panels can be made in gargantuan sizes, as seen at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

CES is a highlight of the global-electronic fair calendar, where the world’s biggest and brightest technology companies showcase innovations to more than 150,000 visitors.  At CES 2015 Samsung, LG, Panasonic and SONY were among the exhibitors unveiling enormous television screens that promised cinema-like, virtual’ images.   LG’s 77-inch 4K OLED EG9900 model was shown to flatten or bend at the touch of a button.  Samsung’s huge curved-screen TVS, with enhanced, immersive viewing, were a centrepiece of the company’s CES booth.  Samsung’s OLED technology included a “Multi View” set where two people wearing Multi View glasses can simultaneously watch and listen to different television shows, movies or games – they actually see  different things on the screen.

OLED is not the only groundbreaking technology out there with electronic companies all clamouring to create the brightest, sharpest picture possible.  Quantum Dot or QDot technology is a definite competitor.  QDot sets are easier and much cheaper to produce but still provide quality pictures with a huge colour palette.  At CES Samsung added QDot tech to its 4K Super Ultra High Definition (SUHD) televisions, saying their TV line provided viewers with 64 times more colour expression than a conventional set.   TCL, LG and SONY all have QDot technology in the pipeline and plan to release their own versions this year. 

The technology sounds exciting – but when will innovations such as wallpaper TV hit the market and what will they cost?  OLED is far more expensive than other technologies including QDots right now, because of low production numbers. However, Yeo says LG is well on the way to answering production issues, and predicts  it will sell 600,000 OLED TV panels this year, rising to 1.5 million next year.  Prices are likely to fall, just as HD television prices did five years ago. Either way there is plenty of exciting technology out there such as QDots 4K and SUHD that promise vivid, cutting-edge viewing.