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StoreDot promises 30 second phone charging by 2016

Posted by wicked April - 7 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

StoreDot Flash-Battery Demo - YouTube 02 001285

Phone makers have increased battery capacities over the last few years, but the rise of Full HD displays and other power hungry components means that battery life is still a daily concern for most of us.

If you can’t increase battery capacity, the next best option is to speed up the charging rate, and that’s exactly what Israel-based startup StoreDot is hoping to do.

StoreDot is developing a technology that could bring breakthroughs in battery design, but also in storage and display manufacturing. The startup is working with tiny particles of an organic material called peptides, which are molecules of amino acids, the building blocks of all life. (In fact, StoreDot’s research is based on discoveries made by scientists at the Tel Aviv University that were studying Alzheimer’s disease.) Peptides self-assemble in tiny spheres of about 2 nanometers in diameter that exhibit some remarkable properties, including the ability to store a lot of energy for a brief period.

StoreDot essentially found an affordable and efficient way to create organic quantum dots. You may already be familiar with quantum dots from Sony’s Triluminos technology present on the Xperia Z Ultra, Z1, and Z2, which allows the display to show richer color compared to regular LCD. But Sony’s inorganic quantum dots are toxic, expensive, and hard to manufacture. StoreDot doesn’t have the same drawbacks.

What StoreDot did is create a battery made of alternating layers of organic quantum dots and conventional lithium electrodes. Acting like a supercapacitor, the organic layers are able to store energy in as little as 30 seconds, and then slowly release it to the lithium layers. From there, the device draws the energy it needs from the lithium layers, just like on a regular battery.

StoreDot Flash-Battery Demo - YouTube 59 001286

Currently, the technology is limited in terms of capacity and size. A modified Galaxy S4 can charge in just 30 seconds, but the battery is the size of a laptop power adapter. However, StoreDot is confident that, in as little as three years, it will be able to create flash-charging batteries of capacities and sizes that are comparable to today’s conventional units. This will make it possible to charge our smartphones, tablets, or laptops in minutes, rather than hours. And the technology is not prohibitively expensive – StoreDot batteries would cost about twice the cost of a regular smartphone battery, which is currently $30.

News of breakthrough battery technologies surfaces regularly, but in most cases, commercial deployment is years away, if any timeline is given at all. We hope that’s not the case with StoreDot, which seems an extremely promising development. The company is currently looking for investors, and Samsung is rumored to have offered strategic funding in 2013.








Facebook acquires Oculus for $2 billion

Posted by wicked March - 26 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Oculus Rift CES 2014-1

Facebook just took one step closer to making the world of Ready Player One a reality by acquiring Oculus for $2 billion.

Oculus is the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset that’s coming soon to PCs and to Android devices. The company counts Doom creator John Carmack as an employee, and is working to build a new way of playing games with its virtual reality headset. After the acquisition closes next quarter, it will do so as a division of Facebook instead of as an independent company.

In its press release announcing that it bought the company Facebook says the Oculus Rift isn’t going away, virtual reality gaming is still definitely coming. We’re not exactly sure when a consumer version of the VR headset will come out, though Oculus is selling pre-orders for its second developers kit now for $350. The consumer version, when it eventually comes out, should support Android devices. If nothing else, a version of the headset that supports Android is coming at some point.

Facebook’s vision for Oculus involves using the headset and Oculus’ software for other forms of virtual reality beyond just gaming. The headset could put sports fans court side at games, or pale students in virtual classrooms. Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants to use Oculus to create the OASIS MMO from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. In that book the MMO takes over almost all human interaction to the point where public school is held within virtual classrooms in OASIS. Maybe we won’t go that far, but Facebook is potentially heading in that direction.

Taken in that context, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus makes perfect sense. If virtual reality is the future, Facebook would want to be a leader in the space, as it seems like the natural evolution of the social network. From a gaming perspective the move doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Gamers probably would have preferred a company like Microsoft or even Amazon to pick up Oculus, assuming Google wasn’t interested. But with some added thought it’s obvious gaming is just a small part of Oculus’ potential.

Of course, as it happens whenever Facebook acquires any company, some people aren’t happy with the decision. Notch, the creator of Minecraft, already announced on Twitter that he cancelled a deal to make the popular game for Oculus because, he said, “Facebook creeps me out.”

Does Facebook acquiring Oculus concern you? Or are you excited about what the company can do with the virtual reality hardware and software?


    







Graphene: the next big thing in mobile displays?

Posted by wicked February - 5 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

GrapheneSheet

Display technology is moving at a very fast pace these days. Smartphone display resolutions are already surpassing that of most television sets, and manufacturers are working hard on flexible display technology, which doesn’t appear to be too far away. But display technology isn’t all about squeezing in a few more pixels, today we’re going to take a look at a new material that could end up replacing existing display materials, named graphene.

One of the biggest problems facing display manufacturers is the high cost of raw materials. Since the start of the millennium, Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), the base material used in LCD displays, organic light emitting diodes, and touch panels, has risen quite substantially, driven by rising demand for a wide range of display products, solar panels, various other technologies, and an increasingly limited supply.

Indium 20 year price chart

Source: SMG-Indium

Looking at future smartphone technology, ITO isn’t ideally suited for use in flexible displays, as the material lacks the required flexibility and can be rather fragile when put under pressure. Because of the high costs, limited supply, and lack of versatility, manufacturers have been increasingly looking towards carbon-based alternatives, of which graphene appears to be one of the most promising.

A little history

Research into graphene began all the way back in 2004, and two scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both received the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research into the material. Without going into too much detail, Graphene is a one atom thick sheet made of entirely carbon atoms, which are arranged in a honeycomb lattice. The height of a sheet of graphene has been measured to be just 0.33nm, almost one million times thinner than a human hair. Although just one atom thick, research into graphene has shown that it has some interesting mechanical, electronic, optical, thermal and chemical properties.

For a start, graphene is harder than diamond and roughly 300 times stronger than steel. For a little context, this means that it would take the weight of an elephant balanced on a needle-point in order to break this one atom thick fabric. Despite this strength, graphene can be stretched up to 20% of its initial length. It’s therefore also rather flexible, and can withstand a fair bit of stress before it starts to crack and break apart.

Other important properties include the ability to conduct electricity as well as copper, conduct heat better than any other known material, and is transparent enough that is absorbs just 2.3% of light that passes through it, making it just about visible to the naked eye.

Since this initial research, the technology had made great strides, opening up new fields in ultra capacitors, faster graphene based transistors and processors, and other nanotechnologies.

What does this all mean for our smartphones?

Now that the background is out of the way, we can turn to what this means for our beloved smartphones. Although flexible display technology is no longer a new phenomenon, graphene could be the ideal material to base ultra-flexible technology on. We’ve already mentioned the material’s superior strength and optical properties, which lend themselves ideally to displays.

Flexible displays is the most likely area where graphene will surpass existing ITO based designs. Currently flexible OLED displays use ITO as the material for the LED’s anode, but inducing stress into the display is likely to eventually reduce the efficiency/brightness of the display, and could eventually lead to a breakdown of the OLEDs. Graphene’s electronic and thermal properties makes it a suitable replacement material for the ITO anode, and its increased resistance to stretching should help prevent display degradation.

OLED Structure

The structure of an OLED diode. Source: Novaled

Such a device has already been demonstrated, with a similar electronic and optical performance to that of devices made with indium tin oxide. Similarly, the mechanical properties and strength of graphene makes it suitable for more general display protecting purposes.

The material’s conductivity is also important for use in touch displays. Back into 2011 researches at Rice Univierty demonstrated a single-layer sheet of graphene combined with a grid of metallic nanowires on a flexible substrate to create an unbreakable, highly conductive, see-through display which could be used with smartphones.

So the biggest impact is likely to come from graphene’s increased strength, providing that it can be manufactured at a enough low cost. Anyone who’s had to suffer through watching the display on their smartphone shatter after hitting the ground will know how important such technologies could be.

Corning’s Willow Glass is likely to be the closest ITO based flexible display layer. It would be interesting to see how the strength and cost of these two technologies compare.

Graphene: the next big thing

I should point out that this technology is still in development, but there’s a lot of interest in pushing it to market. Picosun Oy, a leading atomic layer deposition manufacturer, has recently teamed up with several prominent European nanotechnology companies and research institutes to develop graphene-based solutions for display manufacturing. There’s huge interest in graphene all over the world, there are already almost ten thousand patent applications already linked to graphene research. Nokia, and other companies, invested $1.36 billion into graphene research last year, and the UK and EU governments are also allocating £50 million to further research at the University of Manchester.

Like all technological innovations, there’s still more research and testing to be done before we can even begin talking about products. There’s also costs of production to consider, graphene has not yet benefited from economies of scale that result from widespread mass production. It’s going to be a little while longer until we see any consumer products using this material, but it’s one that’s well worth keeping an eye on.


    







Google is developing smart contact lenses that monitor blood sugar

Posted by wicked January - 17 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

google smart lens

Google’s latest moonshot is a smart contact lens that diabetics can use to monitor their blood sugar levels.

Led by Google’s Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project envisions a painless, non-invasive, and accurate way for people suffering from diabetes to keep their blood sugar level under control. Currently, that involves painful and inconvenient blood tests that patients have to go through multiple times a day. One in every 19 people in the world suffers from diabetes today, and with our increasingly unhealthy lifestyles, that number is likely to go up in the future.

Google’s smart lens works by putting a minuscule sensor, a hair-thick antenna, and a chip the size of a piece of glitter between two contact lens layers. The sensor is in contact with the tears naturally found on the surface of the eye and can take readings of glucose levels once per second. The lens can communicate with an external device, and receives the power it needs wirelessly, storing it in a tiny capacitor.

For now, the technology is in an early stage, but Google hopes to add more functionality to the smart lens, including a warning system based on LEDs. The lens could incorporate a minute light that could flash to warn the user about changes in their blood sugar levels. According to Brian Otis talking to re/code, this could happen when the user closes their eyes, while in the rest of the time, the tech remains invisible.

google smart lens 2 re/code

They may appear to be a prop out of a sci-fi flick, but actually smart lenses are not a new concept. As TechCrunch notes, there are similar devices in development from other companies, such as the Sensimed Triggerfish, a smart lens designed to monitor changes in ocular pressure for glaucoma patients.

Google appears to have adopted the idea of Babak Parviz, who conducted research on a blood sugar monitoring lens when he was working as a professor at the University of Washington. In fact, Parviz collaborated with Microsoft Research for the project back in 2011, though it’s not clear what contributions, if any, Microsoft had in the development of the smart lens. Here’s a video showcasing Parviz’s work with Microsoft Research.

Why is Google developing a smart lens for diabetes patients? The Mountain View giant has a medical research subsidiary in Calico, but medical devices are a new foray for Google. However, this initial application may be a gateway for general use smart lenses. Babak Parviz was initially interested in putting displays into lenses, but his idea was met with skepticism in the past. Now that Google is in charge, no idea is too wild. The company already puts a virtual display in the field of view of Glass users, and in the future, smart lenses could provide a more personal computing experience.

For now, Google is working with partners to bring the first smart lenses to market and with the FDA to obtain all the needed approvals. The company has not provided a timeline for commercial release, but typically medical devices go through lengthy clinical trials and approval processes before they are green lighted for general use.

Samsung Galaxy S5 concept video borrows iPhone 5s features

Posted by wicked December - 31 - 2013 - Tuesday Comments Off

Samsung_Galaxy_S5_with_Reach_ID_concept-3

A new concept video for the Samsung Galaxy S5 shows what Samsung’s next phone could be like if it takes a couple features from the iPhone 5s and iterates on them.

The major focus of the new concept video is what the video creators Rozetked call Reach ID. The idea of Reach ID is very similar to Apple’s Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, but a bit more useful. Where Touch ID is only accessible from the iPhone’s home button, the concept Reach ID unlocks the phone with a fingerprint from anywhere.

With the Reach ID concept you would simply put your finger anywhere on the home button or homescreen of the Galaxy S5 to unlock the phone. Or, if you can’t reach your phone for some reason, Reach ID can unlock the S5 with just your voice. Presumably such a feature use a specific passphrase or cadence like Touchless Control feature of the Moto X, but because this is a concept video it’s not limited to such restrictions.

Speaking of not limited to reality, this concept video shows some neat voice control features that let you create a workflow for your phone. The voice control features in the concept video can open the music app, play songs from Metallica, then open the most recent photos in the Gallery app with just a few sentences and no taps required. Even more than Reach ID the feature seems like a ways off, and, if it did exist, it probably wouldn’t use the Google Now UI, but it’s always nice to dream.

Of course, the video ends with specs of the concept Samsung Galaxy S5 that make sense with the most recent rumored specs for the phone. They include a 5.2-inch 2K (2560×1440 resolution) display, a 64-bit Exynos 5 Octa processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, and 3GB of RAM.

Galaxy S5 Metal Concept

The Galaxy S5 is one of the most hotly anticipated phones of 2014, with many more concepts to come.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is still a few months away, so expect a few more concept videos like this one and a few more rumors before it actually comes out. We don’t know much about the next Samsung flagship, but if it’s anything like this concept video, it should be a very exciting phone. If Samsung is following in the natural progression of what it had done for the past several major device launches, then it’s likely to have the best in class specifications; many of which have been listed above. Also, if you’re interested in seeing what other creative types have concocted in terms of concepts, then check out the hybrid HTC One / Galaxy device here

What features would you like to see in the Samsung Galaxy S5? Excited for it? Or holding out for something else? Let us know what’s next on your watch list!

Thanks, Oleg!

Video: Samsung imagines a weird and wonderful display-centric world

Posted by wicked December - 27 - 2013 - Friday Comments Off

Regardless of what device you are using to read this right now, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a display made by Samsung. The Korean’s conglomerate is one of the world’s largest makers of displays for consumer electronics, from smartwatches to giant curved OLED TVs, and everything in between.

With innovations like flexible displays and transparent panels slowly making their way to actual products, the future is wide open for Samsung Display. In the video above, published in November during the Analyst Day 2013 event where Samsung outlined its plans for the next years, the company imagines a future of omnipresent displays.

Some of the applications shown in the video may seem far-fetched, but the foundation for similar breakthroughs has been laid. Samsung, LG, and other manufacturers already work on unbreakable, flexible, transparent, or incorporable panels, even though early commercial products, such as the Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex, are not that impressive.

What innovation from the video would you love to see made real?

What is the next major breakthrough for smartphones?

Posted by wicked November - 9 - 2013 - Saturday Comments Off

Smartphones stacked Android best iphone apple samsung LG HTC

Has the pace of innovation been slowing down lately? We’re used to incremental improvements to the existing technology in our smartphones, but big, bold moves are much more exciting. Our expectations are higher than ever. There have been some interesting developments in the last year. Sony has brought waterproofing into the mainstream. Apple dipped a toe, or a finger, into biometrics with the fingerprint scan to unlock. Google and Motorola gave us a smartphone that’s always listening for its master’s voice. LG and Samsung have taken the first step towards a flexible future.

What might be next on the horizon? Which barriers are our intrepid research and development professionals about to overcome next? Let’s take a look at some of the evolving technology that could be set to enhance our smartphones in the foreseeable future.

Faster image capture and refocus later

Remember that scene in Blade Runner when Deckard uses an Esper machine to enhance a photo and see something that wasn’t captured in the original shot? Well, that’s impossible, but camera technology is improving at an amazing rate and we’re not talking about slapping a giant camera sensor in a mobile (yes we’re looking at you Lumia 1020).

DigitalOptics_Camera_Exploded DigitalOptics mems|cam

DigitalOptics is working on MEMS (microelectromechanical system) camera modules which are capable of incredibly fast autofocus with much lower power demands than current technology. The “mems|cam” can capture six consecutive images and store them as one file, which gives you the ability to refocus the photo later, and it’s up to seven times faster than current camera technology. There were rumors that the Nexus 5 might be packing one, but it now looks like Oppo will be the first manufacturer to release a phone with a “mems|cam” after a DigitalOptics press release announced that they “are exclusive launch partners”.

This is a baby step towards some really exciting technology called Lytro, which uses multiple micro-lenses to capture images with depth enabling you to refocus and change perspective after the shot is taken. Until they figure out how to make Lytro cameras smaller, we’ll have to settle for something less awesome, but it would still represent a major improvement over current smartphone cameras.

Vastly improved speakers

HTC-ProductDetail-Overview-Container1-01-bg

The sound quality on smartphones is generally poor and we’re all used to tinny speakers that don’t deliver any depth, but we may be able to enjoy significantly better audio in the near future. HTC has definitely led in this space with its Beast Audio partnership and Boomsound. The decision to place two front-facing speakers in the HTC One for true stereo definitely delivered the best smartphone speaker audio quality we’ve encountered yet, but for cost and space reasons most manufacturers rely on one speaker.

Thanks to NXP we’re about to see another boost in the shape of the second generation TFA9895 which is “a high efficiency class-D audio amplifier with a sophisticated speaker boost protection algorithm that features multi-band compression”.  In other words, it provides improved audio and reduces distortion without reducing quality or volume, and it can do so without killing your battery.

This new speaker solution will likely be rolling out in a lot of new smartphones over the coming months and we expect to see a few more dual-speaker, stereo set-ups as well. The result will be louder and better quality audio on our smartphones without having to rely on headphones all the time.

Faster charging and greater capacity

Running out of juice is still the number one bugbear for most smartphone owners and, since manufacturers keep adding bigger screens and more features, it’s a problem that has yet to be solved. The lithium-ion battery technology we use currently needs to be fairly large to store enough power. Switching to silicon is problematic because it expands when charged and then shrinks when discharging, which kills it fast, though researchers are working on a way round this.

Graphene is another possibility and 3D printing could be employed to create tiny microbatteries, as highlighted in this Wyss Institute research from Harvard. There has also been a breakthrough at the National University of Singapore’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative, based on an environmentally-friendly storage membrane, which could pave the way for a cheap solution that outperforms current battery technology.

Back in May, 18 year-old high school student, Eesha Khare, created a supercapacitor that could allow your smartphone to fully charge in less than 30 seconds. She won an Intel prize and IB Times suggested that big tech companies like Google are sniffing around, though the problem with this kind of technology in the past has been that it can’t hold a charge for as long as li-ion.

Alternative energy sources and wireless charging

The wireless charger for the the Nexus 5 is coming, and soon.

The wireless charger for the the Nexus 5 is coming, and soon.

Another way to tackle the battery issue is to think about where we get power from.

Wireless charging has been around for a long time now, but the more it is adopted, the more useful it will become. If wireless charging becomes commonplace in restaurants and cafes, airport lounges, and other public places then we’ll certainly take advantage. One of the tedious barriers so far has been establishing a common standard, and there are different technologies at play. The Qi standard is the front runner right now, but we know Samsung is working on magnetic resonance wireless chargers and they should work at greater distances. That means your smartphone could potentially be charging up in your pocket if there’s a charger nearby.

wysips_panel (1)

There’s also some potential in the idea of generating power in some way on the device itself. We’ve seen solar chargers and extended battery cases with solar panels on them. There’s also been some work done on charging through solar cells in the screen. None of the solar solutions deliver a lot of juice and they require direct sunlight to soak power up, but some improvement is better than nothing and Sunpartner Technologies is rolling out its Wysips Crystal solar tech in the New Year, having managed to reduce the cost to about $2.30 per phone, it claims this will boost battery life on average by 20%.

Real flexibility

Samsung and LG raced to produce smartphones with flexible displays, but the benefits of their first efforts in this space aren’t going to wow you. Initially flexible screens are all about durability, and though the display may be potentially flexible it will be housed on a rigid device. No risk of cracks or shattering when you drop your smartphone would be great, though our drop tests might get a bit boring, but the real excitement of flexibility is in new form factors.

flexible-display-1

The dream device would fold out from a portable pocket size to act as a standard smartphone and then fold out again to reveal a 10-inch tablet screen. The barrier here is that the rest of the components in your average smartphone are not flexible.

Graphene could be the magic material that makes it possible in the future and there’s a lot of research going on in this space. Graphene transistors are improving fast, as highlighted in this paper in the ACS Nano journal.  Graphene is a single layer of carbon which is very strong and flexible and the fact it can also be employed as a supercapacitor means that it could be the answer for both flexibility and improved battery performance. Sadly, it’s probably still a few years away from the mainstream, but you never know when the next breakthrough will occur.

What next major breakthrough are you most excited about?

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What would you most like to see in your next smartphone? What technological breakthrough would get you really excited? Post a comment and tell us!

 

World first: Braille Smartphone in the works

Posted by wicked April - 25 - 2013 - Thursday Comments Off
Credit: Sumit Dagar

Credit: Sumit Dagar

Smartphones and the internet are together making the world a more equal, well informed, and overall better place to live in. With the two technologies put together, almost anyone can gather information, start a company and harness the internet to benefit them in ways that were once unimaginable. But for the visually impaired the power of a smartphone is much more difficult to enjoy.

Although smartphones currently have accessibility features like talkback to help the visually impaired, these features pale in comparison to the capability that simple books currently have in Braille.

This could change in the future, if Indian interaction designer Sumit Dagar manages to bring the power of Braille to mobile devices. With the help of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and L V Prasad Eye Institute and with funding from Rolex, Dagar wants to make the capabilities of a smartphone more accessible to the visually impaired.

Technology is giving everyone superpowers, but many blind people are not able to tap into these cool, new features, and the technology is making them even more disabled, so I decided to do something that could reach out to this population.
Sumit Dagar

The concept utilizes a haptic touch screen, which elevates and depresses the screen to transform the data into touchable patterns. A CNET reports claims that it uses shape-memory alloy technology to expand and contract to its original shape after use. For a look at the features of the Braille smartphone check out Sumit Dagar’s TED 2011 speech below.

A Braille smartphone could place the power of the internet in the hands of the visually impaired and give them access to many of the features that other people are able to harness on the go. If all goes well in testing, the smartphone should be released by the end of the year and the price is reported to be just $200.

Samsung to use flexible OLED screen on Galaxy Note 3?

Posted by wicked April - 22 - 2013 - Monday Comments Off

samsung-flexible-amoled-bendy-display-01

Samsung is getting closer to commercializing the first devices featuring a plastic-based (flexible) display. According to a report from the OLED Association, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be on show at the IFA 2013 Berlin show in September, and its plastic screen could be one of the phone’s most talked features.

According to OLEDA’s research, the screen of the Galaxy Note 3 will be made out of a thin plastic material that is not only shatterproof, but also lighter and thinner than current glass substrates.

The screen of the Note 3 is supposedly going to be similar to the Youm displays showed off at CES back in January. However, that doesn’t mean that the Note 3 will necessarily feature a curved screen like the prototypes we’ve seen so far. The screen is more likely to maintain a flat shape.

Whilst the screen of the Note 3 is said to be around half an inch larger than the Note 2, a plastic substrate would make it much thinner and lighter than its predecessor. According to a diagram by the OLEDA, a plastic-based screen would be half the weight of a glass-based OLED panel and an amazing less than a third the weight of a similarly sized conventional LCD display. Needless to say, moving to plastic would enable massive weight reductions, potentially enabling manufacturers to pack heavier batteries without making phones cumbersome to hold.

NOTE 3 article_FPD panel structure comparison

However, there’s a warning in the report that makes us wary. OLED A doubts that Samsung will be able to deliver full HD RGB resolution on plastic, and, even if it is, low yields are likely to limit the number of units that Samsung is going to be able to sell. The Note 3, while not as popular as the Galaxy S4, is likely to sell tens of million of units, making it crucial for Samsung to ensure a steady supply of displays. Therefore, it’s possible, says the report, that Samsung will only sell the plastic-based display version of the Note 3 in certain markets, offering versions with a conventional, glass-based display in most markets.

With about five months until IFA, Samsung still has time to iron out the kinks. All eyes will be on the Koreans to see if they can kick-start the next revolution in mobile displays.

LG could beat Samsung to market with first commercial flexible displays

Posted by wicked April - 10 - 2013 - Wednesday Comments Off
samsung flexible display

Flexible display prototypes by Samsung

LG Display is aiming to ship the first flexible displays for mobile applications this year, beating Samsung to the market.

Flexible displays have been a common appearance at consumer electronics shows and in technology predictions columns for the past couple of years. Samsung in particular has touted its upcoming flexible OLED displays, branded Youm, as the next big thing for mobile devices. At CES 2013, the Korean conglomerate showed us how Youm could be integrated into innovative product designs, like foldable tablets and smartphones with intelligent bezels.

For all the rumors and hype, Samsung has so far failed to bring an actual flexible display product to market. The Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy S4 were all rumored to have unbreakable, plastic-based panels at some point, but needless to say, that didn’t happen. Now it seems that LG could beat Samsung at its own game and ship the first commercial batches of flexible displays this year, ahead of the Galaxy maker.

The news was buried in a Korea Times column that discusses the advances in display technology that LG has achieved in the past year. The display-making unit of LG is already ahead of Samsung Display in the race to bring the next generation of OLED TVs to market, and also when it comes to UHD (4K) displays. If the report is accurate, it’s possible that LG will manage to steal the spotlight from its crosstown rival with the first flexible displays used in commercial devices.

LG has also expanded to flexible displays, which can be twisted and bent and used for next-generation tablets and smartphones. In partnership with Korea’s finance ministry, LG aims to ship its first batch of flexible displays later this year, also ahead of Samsung.

Even if LG manages to reach production yields for its flexible display tech ahead of Samsung, don’t hold your breath for any crazy designs. Most likely, the initial products will feature curved panels encased in rigid glass, similar to the smart bezel prototype that Samsung showcased at CES in January.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been hearing about LG’s plans to deliver flexible displays. In August of last year, it was revealed that LG had accelerated its production roadmap, in an effort to market the first flexible panels products by the end of 2013. However, Samsung was believed to be ahead of LG at the time.

On a semi-related note, LG Display, in collaboration with the Korean government, plans to create 60-inch UHD, transparent OLED panels by 2017.

It’s exciting to learn that two of the largest display makers in the world are close to solving the flexible display puzzle. With product design stagnating (there are only so many ways to fit a touchscreen on a slab after all), a breakthrough was sorely needed. Too bad the rivalry between LG and Samsung often crosses the line of ethics and legality.

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