Flexible displays have long been touted as the "next" big step in display technology for mobile devices, and technology pundits have had a longstanding dream that someday users will be able to unroll or unfold their smart devices.
It's easy to imagine what comes after the smartphone if you disregard modern physics. Displays wouldn't be rigid. They would bend and wrap and fold, and then fit nicely in your shirt's front pocket like a square of paper. They could expand from the size of a wristwatch to the length and width of a 10-inch tablet.
Nick Statt, writing for The Verge, writes about a Chicago-based company called Polyera, which was founded by Princeton graduate Phil Inagaki. The startup has created "Wove" - a flexible touchscreen that is scheduled to launch next year. Polyera created flexible transistors a decade ago, and ever since it has been working toward a vision of creating the perfect bendable display. The company has raised over $40 million in venture capital. Phil Inagaki has some strong opinions on the current state of wearable tech.
We don’t like to think of this as a fitness tracker or a smartwatch with a larger display. It’s really about having a persistent, large display experience that is worn.
Inagaki thinks that devices like the Apple watch try and shrink the smartphone interface and put it on the user's wrist. Instead, Wove will be a much more organic experience where all kinds of information from the web could be displayed.
"We want to pull out digital content and have it live on physical objects," he says. Rather than traditional apps, the company imagines "compositions" for the Wove’s display, which is designed to show a few at a time. For instance, a text message could pop up on the portion of the display accessible only by turning your wrist, letting you glance at notifications without the raising of the wrist to view smartwatch information.
Developers who are interested in making applications for Wove can get a free prototype from the company. Wove runs a version of the Android operating system and includes some pretty modest specifications (1Ghz CPU, 512mb of RAM, and an eInk display). Polyera is working with "top app makers" - the names of which have not been revealed - to showcase Wove's technology. Statt argues that while the idea of the flexible display is compelling, the benefits of having such a form factor are not immediately apparent. Why would the typical user opt for this over an Apple Watch or Android Wear device? The real question is how Wove will compete. Statt notes that smartwatches sold a total of 5.8 million units in Q2 2015, which is pretty small potatoes compared to smartphones and tablets. Not only does Wove have to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung, it's going into relatively uncharted territory.