Notes: DisplaySearch Emerging Display Technologies Conference

The conference room is packed this morning with a lot more attendees compared to the last couple of days. It is 9:40am and I’m jumping in the touch session.

N-trig was focusing on how we get multitouch to go mainstream: the answer is to make multitouch software mainstream where Apple has a head start due to the fact that the company owns the entire eco-system of touch controlling the software, hardware and services.

NextWindow Windows 7 launches on October 22, 2009 and will enable multitouch. (I maybe unpopular with a lot of folks out there for my unfavorable opinion of Windows 7: just because Windows 7 is better than Windows Vista does not make it a good OS. Microsoft should have continued to improve Windows XP because SP3 was getting close to a very solid, fast, and capable OS.) According to Geoff Walker, most OEMs have at least one touch-enabled product under development to work with Windows 7. About 70% will be AIOs (all-in-ones), 20% monitors and 10% will be notebook PCs. Unfortunately, none of the OEMs have a clear vision of what will drive demand for touch. Touch penetration rates are key and forecasts vary among many market research firms. DisplaySearch is forecasting a 3% penetration rate for notebook PCs in 2009 and growing to 4% in 2013. DisplaySearch is also forecasting a 2% penetration rate in monitors and AIOs in 2009 increasing to 3% in 2013.

Applications are key to touch. Consumers must see application functionality that provide a value proposition that makes them open their wallets. Microsoft’s “Software Ecosystem Team” has made just five consumer-touch related announcements: Roxio, Corel, Nero, CyberLink & CeWe and all of these are media programs ( A large number of current applications don’t work smoothly with touch: they work but not smoothly.

Ergonomics Here is a quote from Rupert Goodwins: “The human arm isn’t designed to be held horizontally away from the body for any length of time while making tiny, precise movements.” This shows that a touch-enabled display will not be used for extended times. Reclining monitors and AIOs will help but that will require wider viewing angles (IPS, PVA) that can lead to increased costs.

Cost The incremental cost for touch as a percentage of the total device BOM with a $2/inch assumption in 2009: $150 monitor is about 30%, $300 laptop is about 11% and a $400 AIO is about 11%.

Microsoft The quality of Microsoft‘s touch implementation in Windows 7 looks unusually good so far. Microsoft’s ability to market new OS capabilities at a sufficiently detailed level has not been a historical strength. And this is not a good indication pointing to a successful future for touch based on Windows 7.

Prediction The penetration of touch will hit 25% of AIOs (1.3M units), 2% in notebook PCs (2.4M), and roughly 0% in monitors (0.1M) in 2009. This will increase to 40% AIOs (2.6M), 7% notebooks (9.4M) and 1.1% monitors (1.6M). Geoff Walker’s assumptions for these predictions are that:

  • Applications will begin to fully support touch by the end of 2010.
  • The cost per inch for touch will drop at typical PC hardware rates.
  • AIO sales will exceed most forecasts.

RPO Malcolm Thompson, Chairman and CEO of RPO, is talking about a touch technology called digital waveguide. Back in the 1970s when the graphical user interface was first developed the folks at PARC was scratching their heads figuring out how to move about the pointer on the screen. Someone thought of a brilliant idea: the mouse. More discussions ensued and centered around whether people will be using an odd thing called the mouse. Today, the keyboard and mouse is used to manipulate the GUI that is on almost computer. We are on the cusp of another major transition from the mouse to the finger. Will we be able to make this transition work? Human beings are very versatile when we are driven to do new things and we are very adaptable.

Superior Optical Properties The digital waveguide does not require an additional layer of film or glass on top of the LCD. Applications that require superior optical properties will benefit from enhanced contrast and viewability such as automotive. The optical waveguides provide the spacial location of where the finger is touching.

Scale Applying waveguide touch technology to larger sizes is easily done by increasing the length of the two waveguides and additional LEDs and lenses. Roll-to-roll manufacturing technology is used to lower costs of manufacturing applied to both small and large waveguides. RPO is working on reducing the bezels on the digital waveguides and increasing sizes. Sizes are standardized at 3-, 7-, 10.1- and 19-inch.


Stantum is a software and IP license pure-play company that license to IC suppliers. There are many different touch technologies that serve niche markets. These technology solution groups include optical & video processing, touch sensing and emerging technologies. Touch sensing includes projected capacitive and voltage-driven matrix. Emerging technologies include in cell (resistive or capacitive) and in pixel (photosensor). Optical & video processing include FTIR, IR and video tracking. What is the killer app for touch? Is it watching a dozen videos at the same time and being able to rotate them? Probably not. How about drawing with all ten finger? Mmm… no. A touch notepad? Maybe. There are three pillars of usability: transparency (optical transparency vs tactile transparency), responsiveness (precision and velocity) and trustworthiness.

Senseg Ville Makinen, CEO and Director of Technology of Senseg talked about touch feedback. Touch will become how we interact with machines but there are some elements that are lacking today: there is a lack of texture and touch feedback where the screen feels unresponsive. It is also difficult to intuitively locate buttons and other on-screen objects. Full productivity enhancements are not realized because the focus becomes securing input actions instead of the task at hand. Touch feedback is important because it provides immediate satisfaction, reduces user effort and allows small object recognition. The mechanical touch feedback technologies being used are motors & solenoids (rotating, vibrating: unbalanced weight, linear motors), peizos & other smart materials (materials that change their shape according to voltage or current), and various lab technologies such as active membranes, ultrasound, MEMS devices, galvanic electric stimulation. All technologies are limited and differentiated by the feedback effect type, noise distortion, and mechanical construction of the device.

E-Sense touch feedback does not include mechanical movement. E-Sense creates electrostatic pressure called a Coulomb force between the tissue on the finger and the E-Sense surface.

  • Modulated pressure creates easily controllable touch sensations.
  • Field strengths are below those met in everyday surrounding environment.

Rays & Sharks It is interesting to note that rays and sharks have this type of sensing capability. It is not a rumbling but a real sensation. The touch feedback does not require a physical contact. In most haptic feedback implementations the entire device provides the feedback. Not so with E-Sense: tactile sensations are localized. Scaling to larger display sizes are not limited. In addition the display remains fully transparent, silent (almost fully) and device integration is simple. I really think that Senseg has a special touch feedback technology. It is also very interesting to note that rays and sharks are already getting feedback using this type of technology.

Electronic Paper Display

There are many different types of electronic paper displays: electrophoretic, electrochromic, bi-stable LCD, MEMS, electrowetting, and others like tunable photonic ink. There are many applications too: ebooks, USB drives, handhelds, display cards, magazines, electronic shelf labels, public signage, clothes, watches, etc. The advantages of epaper displays are:

  • Save energy and paper with a long battery life making them environmentally friendly
  • More and more digital content is available
  • Epaper displays make a large amount of books and documents portable, especially attractive for travelers and students
  • Additional new functions: interactive, wireless, audio, change font size, dictionary
  • Saves space (bookshelves, storage rooms) and also saves money in the long run
  • Epaper displays are easy to read, especially in bright ambient light
  • Labor cost and time savings
  • Differentiating products

Challenges There are so many different varieties. The substrate is also a major challenge: rigid vs. flexible. Glass is usually used for rigid epaper displays. For flexible applications there are plastic, metal foil (LG Display), fabric or paper (Acreo). Another challenge is the electrode and here are some materials that are being used: ITO, carbon nanotube, conductive polymer, metal wire films. For TFTs, a-Si and LTPS are mature technologies with new ones being developed: organic TFT, oxide TFT, etc. There are many ways to manufacture epaper displays: roll-to-roll and batch processes. A major challenge for epaper displays is to move from greyscale to color. There are three main methods to enable color on epaper displays: spacial color filter on top of a monochrome display, spatial color sub-pixels, and stacking of transparent color layers.

Forecast 22 million units for 2009 and 52 million in 2010. Touch penetration will be about 8% in 2009 and will increase to 12% in 2010. It will take until 2017 before touch will penetrate more than 50%. These are some of the factors that would enhance success on epaper display-based devices:

  • A good display, with reasonable size, good contrast ratio at sun light, good resolution and fast response time
  • Color display is especially critical for the e-newspaper and e-magazine application
  • Flexible display: When the display size is 10” or larger, weight and fragility of glass become crucial: plastic or stainless steel substrates have potential
  • Touch screen: I think this is a must-have feature for epaper displays because we want to make notes and highlight our books.
  • Long battery life
  • Wireless: Any electronic reading device will require wireless connectivity to receive updated content without being tethered to a computer.
  • Content
  • Price: I say $99 is the sweet spot.
  • Available in brick-and-mortar stores
  • Wide format support
  • Side light or front light: Some of us read books at light but maybe we can use the old model and have reading lights instead of having it integrated into the device adding additional cost.
  • Large memory size
  • Fast boot time: I don’t think it should be fast; it should be instant.


Forecast OLED revenues will grow to $7.1 billion in 2016, up from $615M in 2008, with CAGR 36%. The main display on the mobile phone showed strong growth recently and will continue to capture dominant share of OLED revenues with $2.8 billion in 2016. TV will become the second largest revenue application for OLED, at $2.2 billion in 2016. This forecast seems to be overly optimistic regarding OLED, especially OLED TVs, with many industry analysts expecting slow economic growth in major markets such as North America and Western Europe for the foreseeable future. There is currently a single OLED TV on the market (Sony’s 11-inch XEL-1) with just one more coming to market later this year (LG’s 15-inch OLED TV). I am actually quite a bit more bullish on OLED displays on smartphones with Samsung trailblazing this market.

Qualcomm spoke about its Mirasol display based on MEMS technology. MEMS Research & Innovation Center is located in San Jose, CA where all the R&D is being conducted. The manufacturing is done in Taiwan at the Longtan Science Park: Gen. 4.5 fab that is 100% dedicated to producing Mirasol displays. The Mirasol display works by reflecting light so light interferes to create color. The phenomenon that makes a butterfly’s wings shimmer is the same principle mimicked in Mirasol displays. The Mirasol displays reflect ambient light so that specific wavelengths interfere with each other to select color. As a mechanical device, the mirror actuates due to an applied voltage, with a response time of 10-15 usec, fast enough to support video applications. In the last 12 months there have been 10 design wins and a collaboration with LG who will develop Mirasol display  enabled handsets. Color is coming and Qualcomm has been showing off its 2.2-inch Mirasol color display demo and at SID there was a 5-inch color Mirasol display demo. Why is low-power consumption on mobile phones important? With convergence the power consumption increases exponentially but the power supply cannot and does not catch up. The color Mirasol display consumes just 1mW.

E Ink Sriram Peruvemba, VP of Marketing at E Ink, spoke about trends in the epaper market. There are now more than 45 ebook models worldwide. Epaper technology must mimic paper as much as possible to increase the potential to replace a 500 year old technology. The most important factor to enable success in the epaper display market is the price. Other factors include: high contrast, reflective, no eye strain, low power, thin & light, sunlight readable, reliability, durability, custom interfaces, ability to add features, color, etc. E Ink’s customers include Sony, Cybook, Amazon, Elonex, txtr, Slick, Onyx, Astak, iRex, Neolux, etc. The killer app for ebook readers will be electronic textbooks. There are over 100 million post-secondary students worldwide and the average student spends US$650 on textbooks each year. Currently there are on-going trials at several universities and those from BRIC countries may lead the world. Color electrophoretic displays are a reality and will enable etextbook applications. Prototypes were shown at SID in June with mass production expected by the end of 2010.

Liquavista talked about electrowetting displays for ereader and other applications. Electrowetting makes use of hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties to control light. Liquavista’s features include high brightness, low power, paper-like, video switching, low cost and scalability enables it to be positioned very well to take advantage of the growing ebook reader marketplace.

Pixtronix‘s Mark Halfman, VP of Marketing & Business Development, focused on smartphones. Smartphones are expected to grow to 300 million units in 2013 and mobile TV subscribers will hit 472 million in 2013. The displays will increase in size, resolution, brightness and power consumption. The display consumes roughly 50% of the smartphone’s overall power consumption. Smartphones will enable email, ebook reading, Internet access, GPS, video playback, etc. requiring a considerable increase in power. The company is developing a MEMS technology-based low-power display with exceptional video image quality with simple manufacturing using existing TFT production methods. Some specifications include:

  • Color gamut: 115% NTSC
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Viewing Angles: 170/170
  • Color Depth: 24-bit
  • Motion Blur: None
  • Power Consumption: 75% reduction compared to LCD

Color filters and polarizers are eliminated from the LCD improving light transmissivity, which in turn requires very little power to generate light. Liquid crystals are also replaced with a digital MEMS shutter to further increase light transmissivity. Pixtronics showcased a 2-inch QVGA (320 x 240) display prototype during SID 2009.

Corning‘s Jill Van Dewoestine talked about thin glass substrates creating value for LCDs and epaper displays. Corning will be introducing a flexible glass in the future. For notebook PCs the lighter the better and lighter LCDs can help achieve lighter sets: the lower the weight of a notebook PC, the higher the price so there is a direct correlation in terms of value. A 0.35 13.3-inch glass substrate weighs just 70g compared to 139g using a 0.5t or 175g for a 0.63t. Switching to thinner LCD glass is much more cost effective than panel thinning such as etching or polishing. There is also a decline in yields with etching or polishing. ROI will be in about 9 months of adopting a thing glass. 0.4t glass volume shipments will start in Q4’09 and 0.3t is currently being investigated through the end of 2009 and volume shipments is expected to begin in 2010. There is limited sample quantities available now for 0.3t glass. As an epaper display frontplane substrate, glass provides improvements over polymer films. Why glass? There is dimensional stability supports high-quality color with better aperture ratio and improve lifetime and reliability compared to plastic or other materials. With glass you get better thermal capability that supports color and high brightness leading to better optical quality of TCOs. Glass also has better barrier properties that support consistent, long-lifetime performance with reduced moisture and oxygen exposure, chemical and UV blocking.

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