If you liked Samsung's new transparent and flexible AMOLED screens, you'll love 3M's new transparent and flexible multi-touch surface. They're set to make all those sexy concepts real, and the future is closer than you think.
While the concept gaming device in the above picture isn't real, the technology that it represents is. 3M has developed a new type of touchscreen system that's flexible, very thin, totally transparent, durable, and capable of resolving more touch points than you have fingers (and toes).
It's in production now, and absolutely ready to turn into devices like these:
These concepts seem awfully concept-y, for sure, but the underlying technologies are basically all here right now. Take that bracelet in the above video, for example: we have the flexible AMOLED screens, and we have the flexible touch sensor. Stick a battery and controller in a metal clasp to tie it together, and there you go.
3M is more than ready for this to happen. They're already producing these touch sensors, and the first place you'll see them is in mobile phones later this year that will be taking advantage of the sensor's ultra-thin bezel, five times thinner than anything else. As for curved and flexible electronics, 3M has the hardware that enables designers to create these new form factors, so it's really just a matter of time, probably (hopefully) a short time.
This new multi-touch technology is also going to start enabling new capabilities in large format displays. Unless you've got yourself a Surface table (not likely), above a certain size big touchscreens have to fall back on touch sensing technologies that can only allow for one or maybe two touch points. 3M's new design makes 60 point multi-touch possible in display sizes of 30 or 40 inches, and as we've seen, that makes for some pretty sweet potential applications.
Personally I'm damn excited about this stuff, because all of these extreme concept devices that I like to drool over are now more or less possible with technologies that are either in production or are nearly production ready. It's not too much of a stretch to believe that a flexible touchscreen bracelet phone could be a reality, at least in functional prototype form, before we come back for CES 2012.
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