Backit devices are the most common, but some emissive technologies like OLED and MicroLED are having their moment—though not in the sun. None of these display technologies work well in direct sunlight; they fight the sun for light superiority and fail. Makers of cyclometers and other fitness tracking devices have long been aware of the fact that device display technology has suffered from indoor-centric thinking. When people think of kids and devices the knee-jerk reaction is that kids need to be outside (and these devices are keeping them from going there). This is also how engineers and product designers have been forced to think about displays, but it no longer has to be this way.
Reflective display technology is a third type of display technology. It’s different in that it can use light from the sun or any ambient source to light a screen. In the past this technology was limited to work only in places where there is ambient light, but FLEx Lighting has created an ultrathin front light that changes that and allows a Reflective LCD to work in direct sunlight as well as gain the enormous power efficiencies a reflective optical system can deliver.
This has opened up a lot of opportunity for medical and industrial device makers looking for greater ability for continuous safety monitoring. Not only will the devices be viewable in direct sunlight, where humans typically like to go, but the devices don’t need to be charged as often. Wearable devices in general have had to factor in human lifestyle and the great outdoors, which is making product designers and engineers rethink how they build their display stacks against an industry that has been too slow to move away from backlit LCD systems.
Device display innovation is long overdue, and the way we naturally experience color is in a reflective state. We see how light plays off materials as opposed to having it beamed into our eyes, so it’s interesting to see the directions the innovations are heading towards. Moving the light to the front of a device can improve the experience and open the doors to a new world for devices, and that’s exciting stuff.