Data feeds are all in the wrist with new display technology

Army tests eight lightweight, flexible protoypes that can display live video feeds and other applications

The Army is testing lightweight, wrist-mounted displays built with flexible materials and new phosphorescent technology for video streaming and other information feeds to soldiers in the field.

With soldiers carrying up to 100 pounds of equipment and gear, the Army has made it a priority to develop lightweight, durable and energy-efficient technologies to connect warfighters with headquarters and provide them with up-to-date information for improved incident response.

The Army Communication Electronics Research and Development Engineering Center’s Technical Lead, Raymond Schulze, and representatives from the Project Director – Common Hardware Systems (PD-CHS) are evaluating and testing eight prototypes. The devices were showcased at the Army’s C4ISR On-the-Move testing environment last month at Fort Dix, N.J.

Demonstrations at Fort Dix showed that the devices could display live video feeds and other images from a variety of different applications, according to a Universal Display Corp. release.

The displays use organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and are full color with a 4.3-inch screen. Developed by Universal Display in conjunction with L-3 Display Systems and LG Display, the phosphorescent Active Matrix OLED (AMOLED) displays from are built on thin flexible metal foil with amorphous-Silicon TFT backplanes.

OLED displays use less power and are lighter than liquid crystal displays, which are built on glass and popularly used in a variety of devices, including phones, laptops and televisions. However, companies have had problems developing OLED displays with long enough lifetimes and consistent quality, Katherine Bourzac reported Technology Review. Phosphorescent displays, which are what Universal Display is providing to the Army, are even less stable, Bourzac writes.

Current OLED screens can convert only 25 percent of electrical current into light, Bourzac writes. Universal Display’s phosphorescent screens use different technology for energy conversion and could have a theoretical efficiency of 100 percent. Although Janice Mahon, vice president of technology development at Universal Display, did not release power consumption details about the prototype displays being tested by the Army, she did say that Universal Display’s phosphorescent OLED (PHOLED) screens use one-fourth the power of a conventional OLED, Bourzac notes.

Other companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Samsumg. are also developing similar technologies, although they are mostly using plastic for the display, Bourzac writes. In June, Defense Systems reported that Sony is developing a prototype organic thin-film transistor that can be rolled around a pencil, even as it plays a video.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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