They initially started off as big clunky TV sets, whittled down over the years, thanks to LCD technology, to wafer thin displays and now possibly will go a step further, being lighter than light and also transparent.
Computer screens or displays have come in many shapes and sizes, the de rigueur nowadays being a flat, couple of inches across LCD that makes one forget the old TV-like screens that weighed half a ton, but now American computer manufacturer HP has just been granted a patent for a revolutionary new transparent computer display that not only displays images and information on its screen, but also onto any object that may possibly be placed behind.
The manufacturer had applied for the patent originally in 2006, but it was not until this week that HP was granted the patent for a see-through display, one which the company had shown prototypes of in the 2011 film, "Real Steel". In the movie, two different types of see-through displays, a part of HP Future Tech, were showcased. The first was the ThruScreen, a transparent display that allowed data to be displayed on any object placed behind the screen. HP researchers described this technology in action, saying that practically anything could be placed behind the screen, for example a "chart, picture or other image," and that “[the] see-through display may be placed upon a map so as to provide an observer with a navigation route."
The second such device in the movie was the HP Flex, a laptop that use the transparent display that saw live data regarding an event, in this case a boxing match, projected on the screen in real time to fully analyze the boxer’s performance.
Of course, these gadgets themselves are still a little far off, but obtaining the patent for the transparent displays is one step closer to realizing this technology of the future.
At present, a similar technology is already being used in teleprompters, but HP was keen to note that while it was able to display text, the see-through displays of the teleprompters had a problem with full color images and even greyscale, something that HP’s own transparent screen does not have an issue with.
Technology analyst Chris Green, of Davies Murphy Group Europe, was shown some of the transparent displays developed by HP and he remarked, "HP has been working on trying to perfect this technology for about two decades. There's many real world applications, from augmented reality to displaying information on flat surfaces such as web browsers on windows or heads-up displays in cars. It may look gimmicky in the movies but there's huge financial potential in this if you can get the technology right and sell it for an acceptable price."
However, it seems HP is not the only company that is interested in this technology, as it has been learnt that Samsung is also tinkering with the technology, having unveiled a prototype laptop with an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) transparent screen at the recently held Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.