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KETI’s ultra-thin OLED is a precursor to foldable smartphones

Posted by wicked April - 10 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

Highly-flexible OLED electrode

Researchers at the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI) have announced the world’s most flexible, ultra-thin OLED electrode material, which can be folded at an angle thinner than a strand of hair (0.1mm), leading the way towards ultra-flexible displays. Flexible OLED technology is the secret behind Samsung’s Galaxy Edge smartphones and LG’s G Flex range, which has opened up new ergonomic designs for mobile products.

The new technology was created by fusing silver nano wire with a colorless polyimide in the OLED panel, rather than using Indium tin oxide, which easily cracks when bent. Previously, silver nano wires had not been used in flexible OLED displays because they produce a rough surface. This problem was solved by placing the wire in the polymer substrate and then smoothing the surface using plasma irradiation. Previously the maximum curve radius of flexible OLED was around 5mm, so this is a substantial improvement.

“With this OLED electrode material, smartphones can be rolled and fully folded like paper,” – Korea Electronics Technology Institute

Flexible OLED elementThe technology has already undergone some rather rigorous testing. Researchers say that the material can survive 100,000 folds before breaking, which would allow users to open up an ultra-foldable smartphone 100 times a day for two years consistently before breaking.

Furthermore, the OLED has excellent performance properties. The transmission of visible light reaches 90 percent and sheet resistance reached 8 ohm/sq, handily above the industry criteria of 85 percent transmission and 15 ohm resistance to be classed as a foldable material.

“We are currently discussing mass production with major chemical material manufacturers in Korea, expecting that a fully-foldable smartphone will be available on a commercial scale within two years to come.”

KETI anticipates that this breakthrough could lead to the first commercially available foldable smartphone within just two years. However, we have no idea what such a device would look like or how it would function, and wearables or electronic paper seem like more suitable uses for this technology in the near future.

We are still waiting on major breakthroughs in other areas of flexible electronics before we can talk about a competitor to today’s high-end devices. Even so, this is a promising step forward for ultra-flexible electronics.

Caltech sensor could turn your phone into a 3D scanner

Posted by wicked April - 6 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Hajimiri-CCI-3D scanning

3D printing technology is gradually becoming slightly more affordable, but we’re not all CAD experts and a cheap 3D scanner to help produce our own objects remains elusive. Fortunately, CalTech researchers, working under electrical engineer Ali Hajimiri, are working on a new “nanophotonic coherent imager” (NCI) that may one day allow users to scan 3D images with just their smartphone.

The tiny NCI chip measures less than a square millimetre and is based on Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, which beams a laser onto a subject and analyses the light waves reflected back. From this data, the sensor can provide accurate height, width and depth information for each pixel in the shot. Typically, image sensors are only interested in the light intensity of each pixel, which doesn’t offer any distance information.

Each “pixel” within the sensor is a LIDAR, allowing for multiple data points to analyse the phase, frequency and intensity of the reflected waves. Combining all the data together forms a detailed 3D image, which is apparently accurate to within microns of the original scene. Here’s the explanation of how it works:

If two light waves are coherent, the waves have the same frequency, and the peaks and troughs of light waves are exactly aligned with one another. In the NCI, the object is illuminated with this coherent light. The light that is reflected off of the object is then picked up by on-chip detectors, called grating couplers, that serve as “pixels,” as the light detected from each coupler represents one pixel on the 3-D image. On the NCI chip, the phase, frequency, and intensity of the reflected light from different points on the object is detected and used to determine the exact distance of the target point.

As promising as the technology is, the first proof of concept chip produced in the lab only has 16 LIDAR pixels in the sensor and is therefore only capable of capturing small image segments. The 3D coin image, picture above, required movement of the camera in between shots, but the development team is working on scaling up the technology into a larger sensor. In the future, Hajimiri says, that the current array of 16 pixels could also be easily scaled up to hundreds of thousands of pixels, enough for a low resolution camera.

This 3D scanner technology is already found in self-driving cars and robots, and, thanks to this research, will perhaps one day make its way into our smartphones too.

Ossia Cota promises wireless charging via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Posted by wicked April - 1 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Cota WiFi wireless charging

Although still struggling for broad adoption, wireless charging technology has been steadily gaining steam. In fact, the new Samsung Galaxy S6 supports both PMA and WPC standards, but there are some other interesting and promising technologies on the horizon, too. Today Ossia Inc. announced its latest breakthrough in its Cota remote wireless power system, allowing for wireless power to be integrated into almost any WiFi or Bluetooth equipped device.

Unlike current PMA and WPC charging standards, which operate over short distances, Cota enables wireless charging at distances up to 30 feet. Cota makes use of signals in the WiFi and Bluetooth spectrum to transfer wireless power at greater distances. Cota can provide 1 watt of power to charge your gadget, which is about a third of the power offered through a USB connection. Furthermore, Ossia’s Cota promises to make use of existing antenna circuitry in devices, making it simple and affordable for OEMs to add remote wireless power to existing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth equipped devices. All that’s apparently needed is a small conversion chip. While not lightning fast, hassle free overnight charging and regular wireless top-ups throughout the day make this a tantalizing prospect.

As you might expect, Cota technology brings with it new charger and receiver parts. The tiny IC receivers can be built into devices, or even batteries, and regularly send out omnidirectional beacon signals to direct power from the charger. Once the Cota charger receives the signal, it returns thousands of targeted low power signals at location of the receiving device. Cota can even power multiple devices at once. If you’re worried about safety, Ossia says that its technology produces a signal no stronger than a mobile phone during a call.

Cota charging chip

The vision is to allow for automatic wireless charging in your home, office, or when grabbing a drink in your local coffee shop. We’re not just talking smartphones here, all manner of low power electronic devices could be powered by the technology.

Ossia will be licensing its design to OEMs and ODMs, who can then build their own transmitters and implement the receiver into their products. Cota sounds like another promising solution for limited mobile battery life, and the small, easy to implement charging chip could be the breakthrough this technology needs.

We’ll have to wait and see if the company can successfully bring its product to market, which is quickly filling up with competing wireless power products. What do you think, intrigued or not?

Razer to integrate Leap Motion hand tracking into is OSVR headset

Posted by wicked March - 25 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Razer OSVR with Leap Motion

Virtual reality has been in the spot light a lot in the past twelve months, with HTC entering the market with Valve, Samsung partnering up with the Facebook owned Oculus, and Razer announcing its OSVR headset too. Razer recently unveiled a load of gaming related goodies and has now entered into a partnership with Leap Motion, who will be providing built in motion sensors for the OSVR headset.

The key to great VR is said to be in the little immersive details. Not just accurate head tracking and a clear display resolution, but by making the user feel like they are interacting with the space. Leap Motion’s hand tracking technology, seen in video below, should help directly connect the user’s movements to their VR experience, potentially ending the need for controllers or remotes too.

As well as offering new ways to react with the VR world, Leap Motion’s technology allows for headsets to blend virtual and real world images together for an augmented reality type experience. This potentially opens up the scope of closed face headsets and could help solve issues regarding seeing your controller, keyboard or surroundings while gaming.

To begin with, the Leap Motion tracker will be available as an optional faceplate for the OSVR hardware developer kit, with a fully embedded implementation set to follow. The company has a similar, separate faceplate setup already available for the Oculus Rift D1 and D2 headsets. Leap Motion is also said to be looking to partner up with more VR headsets in the future, as its technology seems like a natural fit for VR.

A consumer Leap Motion enabled VR headset won’t be available for a while yet, but the OSVR developer kit should be appearing for pre-orders in May, with a shipping date scheduled for June.

SolidEnergy smaller battery

Smartphone specifications are better than ever, but battery technology has remained stagnant for years. Fortunately, engineers share our complaints and SolidEnergy, another start-up to come out of MIT, is boasting a new battery design that will hopefully lengthen our smartphone usage times. The technology promises twice the energy density of today’s traditional lithium-ion batteries.

SolidEnergy’s new technology works by replacing the battery’s conventional graphite anode material with an ultra-thin sheet of lithium copper metal foil. The benefit here is that this greatly reduces the size of the battery for the same capacity, allowing the saved space to be used for extra capacity.

SolidEngery battery size

The use of lithium-metal electrodes in batteries has been the subject of research for many years, but there have previously been some technical barriers to their viability. Typically, lithium metal can react with battery electrolytes, which over time prevents current from flowing and leads to battery capacity degradation. The reaction also creates dendrites, which can short circuit the battery and ignite the flammable electrolyte.

To overcome these rather major problems, SolidEnergy uses both regular liquid and less reactive solid electrolytes, allowing for suitable conduction without the problematic reactions. A very thin layer of solid electrolyte is applied to the lithium metal foil in the anode, which is thin enough to avoid the lack of conduction usually associate with a thick solid layer while avoiding the short circuit issues of using lithium metals. The video below explains this different approach.

This new technology isn’t only about saving space, SolidEnergy has also successfully demonstrated superior capacity retention over successive charge cycles than competing advanced Li-ion technology. Over 100 recharge cycles, SolidEnergy’s battery retained 80 percent of its original energy storage capacity, meaning that non-replaceable batteries won’t be such a problem in the future.

The first commercial battery using this technology is scheduled to arrive for smartphones and tablets in 2016, with larger batteries for the electric automotive industry to follow.

Sense object recognition could create a limitless, interactive encyclopaedia

Posted by wicked January - 16 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

sense_brain

Informative augmented reality with a full encyclopaedia’s worth data at your fingertips has been the promise of many smart products and wearables, such as Google Glass, but object recognition software and the necessary libraries that go with it haven’t made their way into many consumer products yet. However, Sense, an intelligent cloud-based recognition engine being developed by British Cambridge-based startup Neurence, could help bridge this gap.

Sense works as an online database that comprises of information input by its users. It is being used to build up an encyclopaedia of video, image, audio and text data for use with third party application. Data can be submitted to the master library through smart devices using Neurence’s Taggar app, which is available to download from Google Play.

From there, Neurence plans to offer apps and users access to its database, which can be used as a search engine for products, places, and various types of media, depending on how the app-developer chooses to integrate Sense. Potential applications include informing users about the history of a place or object, linking them up to online shops where they can buy said object, or launching a video trailer for a movie after scanning a poster.

The program is still in its early stages, but Neurence is already working with six device developers. These include big names like Google and Samsung, so Sense may end up integrated in smart products in the not too distant future.

I’ll leave you with the video below, which gives some idea of what Sense could be used for.

Keyssa’s “kiss connectivity” technology could make cords obsolete

Posted by wicked November - 17 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Keyssa-Kiss-Connectivity

A lot of time is often spent debating what the next big breakthrough in smartphones and computing will be, and while some ideas are certainly bold and ambitious, the fact remains that “breakthrough” technology often comes in the forms of “faster,” “bigger,” or “more power efficient” (i.e processors, graphic chips, etc). While these feats are certainly impressive, industry analysts continue to ponder what the next big thing could be. Well it turns out that a company named Keyssa has developed a technology called “Kiss Connectivity” that could effectively take everything we currently know about data transfer, and throw it out the door.

What is Kiss Connectivity?

Eric Almgren is head of the very secretive Silicon Valley startup known as Keyssa, and he recently demonstrated something very interesting. He took a high definition 1080p copy of Avatar (which generally takes around a minute to copy from a USB stick to a Surface tablet) and put it on a hard disk that uses the company’s wireless connector (Kiss Connectivity). He then placed it a few millimeters away from a Dell tablet that uses the same wireless Kiss Connectivity technology, and tapped them together, which triggered a high bandwidth data exchange. The result? The movie was transferred from the hard disk to the tablet within 5 seconds.

Now you might be asking, “how would this affect how smartphones are built?”. Before answering that, let’s step back to really look at what Keyssa has done here. We are looking at something that not only affects smartphones, but computing in general. One could argue that this is the next evolutionary step in USB, Bluetooth, and NFA, and changes the game on transferring data while opening up a world of new possibilities. The concept is so interesting, that Samsung and Intel Capital are both backing the project, which could have huge implications on how data is transferred.

Effect on the smartphone industry

Imagine a smartphone that has no ports. I’m talking zero. No micro USB for charging, no headphone jack, nothing. A completely waterproof sealed up smartphone that could move, transfer, and share gigs and gigs of data within seconds by simply bumping devices. Imagine taking wireless charging to all new levels of speed and efficiency That would all be possible with this new technology (when working in conjunction with other standards), which is in essence a new standard all together.

The connectors used in Keyssa’s wireless Kiss Connectivity are currently able to transfer up to 6 gigs of data per second. To put things in perspective, the latest WiFi standard can handle up to 1.35 gigs a second, and that’s assuming that no one else is using the network. The fastest USB standard currently tops out at 5 gigs a second, and NFC around 400 kilobits a second.

A pretty big jump indeed (and it’s wireless).

Keyssa has currently raised over 40 million dollars and and has around 40 people working on this project. The company’s chairman of the board is Tony Fadell, father of the iPod and head of Nest Labs, the smart appliances company that Google bought in January for over 3 $billion. While we don’t have a time frame for exactly when this technology could roll out, we do know that there are already “top tier” companies that are testing and using this technology as we speak (the startup didn’t want to mention which companies currently have the technology), and that it is scheduled to start appearing in devices in 2015 . Fadell stated back in 2011 that “if this thing works, you are looking at the holy grail”. It seems as if Keyssa just may have found it.

Video: see LG’s large bendable and transparent displays in action

Posted by wicked July - 23 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Earlier this month LG unveiled the first in a new generation of large-format flexible and transparent displays that could one day turn gadgets we now see in sci-fi movies into reality.

We only got to see the new panels in still shots at the time, but now we can get a better look at the new tech from these two short videos.

The video above shows LG Display’s 18-inch polyamide-based rollable display with a curvature radius of 30R. In practice, that means you can bend the panel back and forth without damaging it, but we’re still a few years away from panels you can roll up like a sheet of paper and carry in a tube. Also, the current model is just 1200 x 810, a resolution that is in no way suitable for commercialization. But LG Display is confident it can iron out the technical kinks and bring a 60-inch panel of 4K resolution that can be rolled up in a 3 centimeters tube by 2017.

The second video is a demo of a semi-transparent LG Display panel with a transmittance rate of 30 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but current semi-transparent panels typically have 10 percent transmittance rate. In three years, LG hopes to reach a transmittance rate of 40 percent.

Rollable electronics could open the way for a new world of electronics design. For instance, Samsung showed concepts of smartphones with built-in tablet panels that roll out of the sides and tablets that fold like books. That’s barely scratching the surface though, and once the tech becomes good enough and cheap enough for the mass market, designers will surely come up with products that today seem outlandish.

The benefits of semi-transparent panels are less obvious when it comes to mobile devices. But there are many potential applications in other fields, from TVs that disappear into the wall when they are turned off, to car windscreens that display navigation directions, to bathroom mirrors that show your agenda for the day.

Humble sand could one day triple the battery life of your smartphone

Posted by wicked July - 14 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

 

sand Sam Baid

One of the most frustrating aspects of the modern smartphone is poor battery life, especially for power users. A typical day of usage with my Nexus 5 consists of moderate-to-heavy use, a mixture of browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, using social apps, and listening to music. My Nexus 5 will last me about 8-10 hours before needing to be charged. This isn’t bad, but this isn’t great. I often carry a battery pack with me just in case I need an extra boost in power.

That may change in the near future, if a recently discovered manufacturing technology makes it to commercial deployment.

As reported by Popular Science, researchers at University of California at Riverside developed a technology that could potentially make smartphone batteries last three days, as opposed to one day in the case of the typical batteries of today. The secret is replacing the graphite anode typically used in Li-ion batteries with an anode made of silicon, manufactured through a novel method from common sand.

sand-lithium-ion-battery

Left – common beach sand; middle – purified sand; left – nano-silicon created with the new technology

Researcher Zachary Favors came up with the idea to use sand while dipping his toes in the stuff during a day out at the beach. Silicon, one of the main elements in sand, has long been considered for replacing graphite in batteries, due to its ability to store up to ten times as much energy as graphite. However, the challenge was to manufacture pure silicon anodes that are affordable and maintain their structure over time. Silicon anodes normally swell and break apart, but Favors was able to produce a very porous form that resists swelling and has a larger surface, making it suitable for use in batteries.

“This is the holy grail—a low-cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium-ion battery anodes,” said Favors in a press release.

The UC Riverside researchers currently have a prototype battery and have patented the technology. If the technology takes off, it could change the way we use our devices and battery life would be less of a concern. Truth is, however, that we’ve been promised better batteries for years, with new technologies that promise to dramatically improve battery life emerging regularly. In most cases, commercial deployment is many years away, and that’s in the best case. It remains to be seen if this new technology is any different.

LG’s new flexible panels herald the era of roll-up electronics

Posted by wicked July - 10 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Lg flexible display (1)

It’s 2014 and we still don’t have the flying cars and personal jetpacks we were promised, but at least we’re getting tantalizingly close to tablets and TV sets that you can roll up and carry in a tube.

LG Display announced today breakthroughs in the manufacturing of large flexible and transparent OLED panels, opening the way for the commercial production of truly flexible, see-through displays in as little as three years.

LG Display’s 18-inch flexible screen prototype uses a thin polyamide substrate that enables a curvature radius of up to 30R, meaning that the panel can be rolled around a cylinder with a 3 centimeters radius, without any negative effect on its functionality. The current prototype is just 1200 x 810 (HD), but LG is confident that it can reach Ultra HD (4K) resolution on a 60-inch panel by 2017.

Lg flexible display (2)

Also by 2017, LG Display will be able to create transparent OLED panels with a transmittance rate of 40 percent, meaning that 40 percent of light will pass through them. By comparison, current “transparent” panels have a transmittance rate of just 10 percent, while LG’s new prototype panel boasts a 30 percent rate, made possible by reducing the proportion of circuit components to just 2 percent.

Transparent LG OLED

To sum up, LG’s 2017 OLED panels may be paper thin, easy to roll up in a tube, and semi-transparent. But what does that mean for consumers?

Well, a lot depends on how the technology evolves in other areas, like circuit boards, processors, batteries, and other components. High-end TV sets are already very thin, and it shouldn’t be hard to further shrink components to allow for portable units you can carry around in tubes and hang on the wall, the way we do today with projection screens.

The task may be more challenging for smartphones and tablets. In order to make truly flexible devices a reality, researchers will have to come up with ways to drastically miniaturize and ruggedize components like SoCs, batteries, and antennas.

The current “flexible” display mobile devices, LG’s G Flex and Samsung’s Galaxy Round, are merely scratching the surface when it comes to what needs to be done in order to turn sci-fi flicks gadgets into household items. Further baby steps could come towards the end of the year, when both LG and Samsung are expected to launch new generations of their curved devices.

Show Press Release

LG Display Unveils 18-inch Flexible and Transparent OLED Panels

Seoul,  Korea  (July  10,  2014)  –  LG  Display ,  the  world’s  leading  innovator  of  display

technologies,  announced today that  it has  developed a 18-inch  flexible OLED  panel  that

is  rollable  as  well  as  a  18-inch  transparent  OLED  panel.   With  these  new  panels,  LG

Display shows  that it has already acquired fundamental technologies to lead  the  large sized flexible and transparent display market.

The flexible OLED  panel  has  a high-definition class resolution  of 1200  X 810 with almost

1 million mega-pixels.  The  panel’s  curvature  radius is 30R.   The panel can be rolled up

to  a  radius  of  3cm  without  affecting  the  function  of  the  display.   This  proves  that  LG

Display can bring rollable TVs of more than 50 inches to the market in the future.

LG Display used high molecular substance-based  polyimide film  as  the backplane of the

flexible  panel instead  of  conventional  plastic  to achieve the  maximum  curvature  radius.

The polyimide film also helped reduce  the  thickness  of the panel  to  significantly  improve

its flexibility.

As  for  the  transparent  OLED  panel,  it  boasts  30  percent  transmittance,  which  was

achieved  by  adopting  the  company’s  transparent  pixel  design  technology .   LG  Display

has  successfully  lowered  the  haze  of  the  panel  which  is  generated  by  using  circuit

devices  and  film  components  to  a  level  of  2  percent.  With  this  breakthrough

development, the company  has been  able to improve  greatly  the technology  level  of the

transparent  display.   Considering  that  the  transmittance  of  existing  transparent  LCD

panels is around 10 percent, this new panel offers significantly improved transmittance.

“LG  Display  pioneered  the  OLED  TV  market  and  is  now  leading  the  next-generation

applied  OLED technology .   We are confident that by 2017, we will successfully develop

an Ultra HD flexible and transparent  OLED panel of more than 60 inches, which will have

transmittance  of more than 40 percent  and  a  curvature  radius of  100R, thereby leading

the future  display market.”  said  In-Byung Kang,  Senior Vice President and  Head of the

R&D Center at LG Display .