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CES 2018: Screens go big and bendy

12 January 2018 | by Karl Smith

It wouldn’t be CES without some innovations in television from the big manufacturers, and Sony, Samsung, LG, TCL among others, did not disappoint show attendees.


The television, of course, has been drifting away from the traditional concept of ‘television’ for some time now, enabled by advanced processors, and now AI software (lookin’ at you Google and Alexa). In the next few years, we can expect to see our TVs become more digital hubs, rather than just a rectangular screen from which we passively absorb Top Gear reruns.


Towards this end we have seen more seamless integration with the internet, streaming services, gaming consoles, and smart hub points for various controls around the house, all integrated into what used to be derisively ( but accurately) called ‘the idiot box’.


Additionally, screens and TV-like capabilities have been finding their way into all sorts of appliances – washers, dryers, refrigerators, (!) and now, thanks to GE, a screen can come to your range or cooker hood. The GE Kitchen Hub is a 27 inch touchscreen that runs a version of Android software to control appliances and smart features in your home (provided they are GE-made of course). The screen can stream movies, play music, communicate with other members of your home – all the functions of a digital hub, plus lighting your stovetop and sucking all the smells of your burned pot roast out of the house with its powerful exhaust fan.


If the trend is to employ a screen in every device, there is also a movement to eliminate that huge black rectangle from dominating your lounge. Both LG and Samsung make TVs that display artwork when not engaged in video functions.

LG’s model, displayed at CES, was particularly elegant, with Van Gogh’s The Starry Night gracing the framed screen.


And LG also proposes to eliminate that black rectangle by rolling it up and putting it away completely. LG first showed a flexible roll-up screen a couple of years ago. But that screen was a mere 18 inches. This year LG is back with a 65 inch screen that rolls up into its box container when finished. Or it can stay partially raised a few inches to display  apps and widgets for smart home controls.


And of course, size still matters. Samsung introduced a 146-inch microLED television appropriately named ‘The Wall’. It is a miniaturized version of those Jumbotrons you see in sport stadiums, with individual sub-pixels displaying a dot of color. Prices for ‘The Wall’ are expected to be astronomical for a while, as the microLEDs are terribly expensive to produce.


And, finally, television is having a Frank Gehry moment thanks to LG, which displayed a flexible OLED screen television in a sinuous grouping that reminded us of Frank Gehry’s buildings with their curved panels. The panels, each with a slightly different curved shape, were joined together and synchronized to display an impressive tour through a canyon of light, color and sound.


The potential for this technology is huge for architectural applications, but also for automotive design. Currently, screens are rectangles of various sizes but sit awkwardly inside automotive interiors. Newcomer Byton seems to have the right idea with its curving screen/IP, but there are questions about glare, night time use etc.

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But imagine screens bent to the complex curvature of dashboards, seatbacks, headrests and other surfaces, all the while maintaining perfect resolution. It would be a revolution in automotive interiors. Combined with augmented reality windscreens and side glass, the automotive interior could become a truly immersive media environment.

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Whether or not that is desirable in a car of the future is a subject for debate at another time. For the moment screens are here for a while at least, even as devices such as Amazon’s Echo introduce us to a post-screen, AI-dominated world. Which is the true future? Time will tell.

CES 2018