In the not-so-distant future, nearly all households in America will have an epic TV screen that covers most — if not all — of their living room wall. Seem far-fetched? Thanks to recent developments in OLED technology, we will soon be seeing bigger, thinner and increasingly flexible TV screens become the norm.
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diodes. This technology runs electricity through a thin layer of organic compound situated between two electrodes to produce red, green and blue light, the three colors that make up TV images. OLED screens are ultra-thin and flexible and able to cover large surfaces, such as walls.
The three big Asian manufacturers — LG, Samsung and Sony — are pursuing this technology. Current models of OLED TVs are super expensive (the biggest Samsung model costs $102,000!), but as happens with most innovations, prices will eventually drop. Remember how expensive those first flat-screen and plasma TVs were?
Replicating Real Life
The holy grail of television engineering and design is replicating our real-life viewing experience, and OLED technology is the closest we’ve come to doing so. There are three factors involved in achieving the technological feat of viewer immersion in television screens. Let’s take a look:
Size. The subjects need to be big enough so as to convey a sense of realism. In early cinema, the goal of the projectionist was for the images to resemble a theater play. They wanted the subjects in the movie to have a size ratio similar to actors on the stage. In the case of OLED TVs, manufacturers like the South Korean giant Samsung are following a motto: Size does matter, and bigger is better. In 2014, Samsung presented a massive 105-inch bendable OLED TV (check out the video clip from the 2014 CES, below) which is a good indication of what’s to come for everyday consumers (again, you’ll have to wait another three years or so before these exorbitant prices come down).
Peripheral vision. We naturally see in 180 degrees, and our range of vision is wider than the average TV screen. Only technologies like IMAX allow us to watch images in a way that covers our whole range of vision. Well, OLED TVs have a curved surface, which is a more natural way to display images taking into account the curvature of our eyes. This is the principle behind the IMAX technology and virtual reality applications such as the Oculus Rift. The more the screen covers our peripheral vision, the more seamless the experience is. OLED TVs are promising not only for traditional TV viewing, but also (and some would argue, more importantly) for interactive forms of entertainment such as video games.
Definition. OLED TVs provide ultra-high definition, so images are crisp and natural (some would argue they are too realistic — for example, did you notice how fake the props and makeup in “The Hobbit” trilogy look in HD?). OLED TVs have infinite contrast ratios, so images have well-defined shadows and highlights that get as real as can be.
Right now OLED TVs are a new technology that have been taken up only by early adopters and tech buffs, but it promises to become the standard in a few years.