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Rob Spiegel
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Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2012 9:40:00 AM
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This is very cool, Ann. I'm a bit surprised to see this coming out of Russia. I've been viewing Russia as a bit behind, but maybe not. It looks like we're not too far away from wearable screens that can change patterns and colors with a click.

NadineJ
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Re: Russian advancements
NadineJ   6/7/2012 11:07:30 AM
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I was pleasantly surprised to see it come out of Russia too.  Since it's being used in schools, the cost must be low.  Any info on that?  Any companies or governments in other countries using this in the same way?  Kids are great beta testers.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2012 2:32:35 PM
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You're right about kids being great beta testers, NadineJ, especially with tablets. I'm sure you're heard the stories of pre-verbal kids mastering tablet functions. I've seen that close up. It's quite amazing. This flexible screen seems perfect for kids.

Charles Murray
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Re: Russian advancements
Charles Murray   6/8/2012 5:45:26 PM
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I agree about kids being great beta testers, Rob. In this case, it sounds like the technology may be kid-ready, judging by the line in the story that says it can be cut with scissors and stomped with a boot, and still keep ticking.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 3:59:01 PM
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Yes, that is amazing, Chuck. As this technology develops, it reminds me of the movie Minority Report, where everything is a computer screen and everything is personalized. Talking about new consumer technology, I spent three days in Santa Fe on vacation last week. My son was using his Android phone to help us get around the city. The voice on the phone was very good at directions, but most of the street names in Santa Fe use Spanish words. The voice murdered the pronunciation. My favorite was Gar-sha for Garcia. It was quite amusing.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 4:03:18 PM
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Yes, that is amazing, Chuck. As this technology develops, it reminds me of the movie Minority Report, where everything is a computer screen and everything is personalized. Talking about new consumer technology, I spent three days in Santa Fe on vacation last week. My son was using his Android phone to help us get around the city. The voice on the phone was very good at directions, but most of the street names in Santa Fe use Spanish words. The voice murdered the pronunciation. My favorite was Gar-sha for Garcia. It was quite amusing.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/7/2012 12:48:27 PM
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Actually, the company is based in Germany, although it has a center of some kind in Russia, presumably to support the Russian schools testing. Nadine, no financial data was available. To date, this is the only large contract I'm aware of that the company has revealed, at least for the color version.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2012 2:40:34 PM
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Have you seen this technology anywhere else, Ann. I saw the large placemat-style screen Microsoft developed a few years back. That has some flexibility to it, but nothing like the screen you show in the article.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/7/2012 2:53:03 PM
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Flexible displays, at least the idea, have been around for ages, but they're usually smaller and not good enough for e-readers. For example, the Flexible Display Center's 7.4 in diagonal display
http://flexdisplay.asu.edu/node/195
Samsung and Nokia say they are working on them:
http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/30/samsung-to-offer-flexible-displays-in-2012-challenges-nokia-to/

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/8/2012 10:24:40 AM
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If the idea has been around for ages, Ann, it could be there is not a great demand for the feature. I guess someone company will have to demonstrate the need. Tablets were around for ages before Apple showed they could be cool.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/8/2012 11:53:27 AM
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Rob, I think it's less a question of demand than of technology and manufacturing/materials issues. Getting multiple technologies to work together, finding/developing the right combinations of materials, and making this all manufacturable at high volumes is not easy. Tablets took a long time for similar reasons, not only because they didn't have Apple as a champion. So did fancy cell phone features. Miniaturizing cameras didn't happen overnight: that took lots of work on the image sensors and enough time for multiple semiconductor generations/shrinks to occur.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/8/2012 12:39:41 PM
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Many companies seem to develop technology ahead of actual demand. Companies like Siemens seem to develop technology based on customer needs. But a lot of technology gets developed without a clear customer need in mind -- tablets for instance. With tablets it worked out, but I'm not sure the market would have been significant if Apple hadn't demonstrated the technology's value.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/8/2012 1:37:30 PM
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I agree that an advocate for a specific technology platform, such as tablets, helps. But so many other factors have to be in place before that becomes the deciding factor. "Demand" is pretty evanescent and doesn't accomplish much without the other drivers. In the case of tablets, aside from a combination of the right technologies, materials and manufacturability thereof, market timing of competing platforms (notebooks and handhelds) was a big factor.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/8/2012 1:44:41 PM
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Good points, Ann. I have always thought customer demand was the most important driver for technology development. But mauybe not. when it comes to new materials, you've covered tons of technology development that had nothing to do with demand.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/8/2012 1:54:22 PM
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From my experience, market "demand" is a vague, often fluffy term, and not always a real driver, especially once non-technical consumers became customers. Your mom and my nephew can't demand what they don't know exists. Once they've seen what a cellphone or iPad can do, that's a different story. But that's way over at the end user link in the chain and the system phase of design, which so many different elements feed into. OTOH, engineers can certainly demand better design tools and more intelligent and capable manufacturing infrastructure, since those are real identifiable needs. And demand for products, designs or services certainly exists that never gets satisfied, as we've seen often in our comments sections.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 3:26:00 PM
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Very good points, Ann. I guess I've been covering automation and control too long. In that territory a good deal of technology is developed to solve specific customer problems. Yet even in that arena, technology often precedes need and customers have to be sold on the value of the new technology.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/18/2012 3:48:29 PM
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Rob, that's a good point about the difference in industries. Electronics has acted like the wild west for a long time: make a better mousetrap and hope people will beat a path to your door. A lot of what passes for marketing would probably make someone in A&C or other more industrial environments laugh (or maybe cringe).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 4:19:16 PM
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Well said, Ann. Fact is, nobody is looking for a better mousetrap. However, there are plenty of consumers who will glom on to cooler gadgets. I find it interesting that iPhones, Android phones, and iPads have done so well during worldwide economic stress.

William K.
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Re: Russian advancements
William K.   6/9/2012 11:22:47 PM
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"Market Demand" is one of those ongoing lies that marketing wonks use to drive the addition of features that nobody asked for and few would use. It is primarily used as a tool for "product differentiation", since most of that type of marketing has long ago abandoned quality as a product atribute. Note that I define a quality product as one that meets it's specifications long after the warranty has expired, even if it is a one year warranty. 

The flexible color display is certainly in a position to find quite a few unanticipated applications, both graphic and text-based. 

More information about the driving format and temperature range would be handy, as well as a link to the manufacturer or distributors.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2012 11:51:19 AM
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William, there's a link to the manufacturer, Plastic Logic, in the first line of the story. There are no distributors yet to my knowledge. I would have liked a lot more info on the technology, too. The website gives only a smidgen of information and I didn't get much else in the interview. The company is playing it pretty close to the vest.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 4:10:31 PM
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Good point William K. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. At first I thought, this is very cool. Later, I started to wonder about the need for a flexible screen. I'm open to ideas, but right now I can't think if anything.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Russian advancements
Ann R. Thryft   6/19/2012 2:34:19 PM
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Thanks, Rob. I don 't think the flexible screen idea is actually aimed at mobile electronics--it seems to be aimed more at curved, conformable signage and various types of medical device applications.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Russian advancements
Rob Spiegel   6/19/2012 3:05:46 PM
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Thanks, Ann. I didn't realize medical devices require flexible screens.

naperlou
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Does it do motion?
naperlou   6/7/2012 9:46:00 AM
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E-ink technology is wonderful.  The Kindle is light, has long battery life and can be read in bright sunlight.  One limitation, though, is that E-Ink does not do motion.  Is that the case with these devices?  While they seem to have lots of great attributes, without motion display, they will not replace more conventional displays.  They might be great for reading digitized books, but education technology is moving toward the use of video extensively. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Does it do motion?
Ann R. Thryft   6/7/2012 12:49:24 PM
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naperlou, the screen does do video. Here's the b/w version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEf-71r_Czc&feature=relmfu

warren@fourward.com
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All-Plastic Electronics Power Flexible Color Display
warren@fourward.com   6/8/2012 11:53:05 PM
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Wow!  Now that is a good demo!  I was impressed!

I have heard about this technology, which I can see thousands of applications for, and to see it in action was fantastic!

I am really curious about the technology driving it (electronics).  I can't wait to see how this progresses.

TJ McDermott
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Combining technologies
TJ McDermott   6/11/2012 1:44:22 AM
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Flexible displays, + clothing that generates electricity from temperature differentials : put these together and you have a military uniform that can do active camoflage.  The soldier can "almost" disappear in the surroundings.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Combining technologies
Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2012 3:54:27 PM
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TJ, what a neat idea. I can visualize that immediately.

William K.
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all plastic electronics
William K.   6/11/2012 12:23:29 PM
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It is certainly true that thereis a potential for some good camoflage clothing, and at least some very quickly changing covers. Not quite as good as shape-shifters, but certainly able to avoid identification, if not detection.

As for additional information about the product, I wonder if it is a bit like an air motor that I wrote about for this publication a few years back. There were to many details missing, and now the whole product is missing. 

I would watch this company, but not invest a lot in them just yet, since it does sound just to amazing to be true.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: all plastic electronics
Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2012 12:53:40 PM
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William, I know what you mean about vaporware. In this case, the demos are pretty convincing--the technology is definitely there. This company has also been around a while. The thing I wonder about is whether the technology will turn into products. I'm sure we've all seen many examples of software and especially hardware that never make it past the development stage. That's usually not because of technology, but because of other factors harder to pin down than specs or performance, such as manufacturability, the company's ability to sell or communicate benefits, market timing, and existing competition.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Damage Resistant Electronics
Jack Rupert, PE   6/17/2012 2:15:01 PM
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I was really amazed at the video of the person cutting the display with a pair of scissors.  No apparent damage to what was being displayed.  Well, they've been talking about electronic paper for quite some time, it seems that we are finally seeing something close.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Damage Resistant Electronics
Ann R. Thryft   6/18/2012 12:53:08 PM
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Jack, that's exactly what this appears to be: electronic paper. I admit I don't get how it can keep working after being cut, but I saw the same video. I do wish there was more technical detail available, but the company is holding their cards very close.



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