OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens don’t just provide a better picture on TVs and cell phones -- they are poised to completely change everything, from our clothes to our cars. As tech acronyms go, it's a pretty big deal (eat it, SETI). So what exactly is OLED, and why is it so revolutionary? Read on to find out.
When you think OLED TV you probably think, "Oh, like an LCD or LED" but you'd be wrong. The way they work is by shining a light through a prism of actual liquid crystals, which modulate the color and intensity of light emitted through the screen. OLED, on the other hand, has no backlight -- it relies on tiny organic materials which, when excited with an electric current, glow. It's seriously like your TV is alive but not in a bad, Poltergeist kinda way.
2. It sort of works like a lightning bug in a jar
The lights these insects generate is caused by something called bioluminescence, which is the phenomenon of an animal producing light with its body. The difference with OLED is that what creates this glow are organic compounds and not entire organisms; in OLED, it’s called electroluminescence.
3. ...France helped invent it
Yes, in what seems like a mean parody of effete Frenchness, a dude named André observed electroluminescence at, wait for it, Nancy-Université, way back in the early '50s. How is this amazing? Uh, because the French invented something not delicious pastry-related?
4. OLED is the new black, as it actually displays black
Because OLED screens don’t rely on a consistent source of light, its emission of black is considered “true black,” and the general contrast on OLED is also improved. The result? A much richer picture display, with more nuanced shades of color. In essence, OLED more closely resembles an actual image-producer than just a light filter.
You could literally roll up an OLED screen and put it in your back pocket, like you would a magazine. While the technology isn’t quite there yet, a wallet-esque foldable cell phone is definitely in the near future... as is you leaving it in a hover taxi.
6. It has ridiculous applications
Like high fashion, celebrity, and advertising. Thanks to the highly flexible, thin nature of OLED, slogans and more could be dynamically playing across your skinny jeans in just a few years...
7. Thanks to OLED, you may not have to beg bartenders to charge your phone anymore
And it'll cut down on your electric bill at home. OLED’s lack of a backlight means that, compared to LCD, it needs only 40% of electric power when the image is primarily black (like on your phone), and 60-80% of power to display other gradients of color.
8. And it works better in natural light
You know how you have to adjust the brightness on your phone to save power? Or to read it when it’s too bright/dark outside? When an OLED screen displays something blue, it doesn’t filter colorless light through a prism -- it actually is blue. That means that screen you rolled up in your pocket earlier could be brought to the park and provide a high-definition picture display.
Even the fastest LCDs can transition between colors at a “refresh frequency” of 144 Hz. OLEDs have a much faster response time, meaning sports, video games, and other kinds of quick-moving entertainment will look ridiculously better.
If you plan to get a new BMW in the future, congrats: their plan now is to put OLED in their cars' headlights and taillights in the near future. While there's a diverse batch of investors interested in its potential, the only OLED television in the game is LG's at present.
11. The changes are going to be big… maybe even magical
Pretty much everything we do nowadays, whether it’s finding a meal or a lawnmower or a date, is on a screen. So pretty much everything we do is about to get better. While OLED devices are a new and relatively fragile technology, its potential applications are relatively boundless. Most scientists now think OLED will result in cheaper screens that are versatile and easy to transport -- or even transmit onto a surface. Very soon, you may be able to print moving pictures, like the animated newspapers in Harry Potter. But in the meantime, just enjoy watching Harry Potter with 4x the resolution you're used to.