Sony and LG.Philips, two of the world's biggest flat-panel display makers, unveiled flexible full-colour screens at a display industry show in California this week.
Sony took the wraps off its prototype and released an impressive video showing the display being bent to form a semi-circle while still displaying a moving video image. The 2.5in display has a resolution of 160 pixels by 120 pixels making it a little larger than the typical mobile phone screen with a slightly lower resolution.
The screen from LG is larger at 4in in diagonal width and has a higher resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels. In contrast to Sony's video, LG.Philips released only a photo that showed the display curved at a slight angle.
Typically, flat-panel displays are built onto thin sheets of glass but the Sony and LG.Philips screens are made on thin sheets of plastic and metal respectively. That allows them to be bent but also introduces a range of other problems such as keeping everything aligned and working while the panel is flexed. Indeed, the video of Sony's prototype showed several bad pixels and other problems.
Neither company has said when it thinks the displays will be ready to go on sale but early customers might be attracted to them for reasons other than their flexibility, said Paul Semenza, an analyst with iSuppli, who attended the Society for Information Display conference where they were announced.
"What tends to get forgotten is that these displays are also rugged and lightweight," he said. "Those are valuable properties."