Follow the curve into the future

Follow the curve into the future

The huge curved television screen was on display in the arrival hall and I spotted it the moment I stepped out of the secure area at Incheon International Airport in Seoul.

Actually, I only knew that the screen was curved because I was at the annual IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin the week before and was one of the many journalists camped out at the halls of both LG and Samsung, hoping to get a closer peek at the world's first curved television sets.

A steady stream of gawkers and added security meant there was little time to admire the screen, much less see exactly how the curved surface would change how I view its images.

At Incheon, I learnt that the curve did not.

Maybe it was because I had landed in the evening when the airport was less crowded than usual, but none of the people there looked at the TV as if it was anything special.

If not for the fact that the design of the TV screen looked familiar from afar, I would not have given it a second look, as what it displayed did not look any different from what I would see on a regular flat-screen display.

You would only notice the slight curvature if you were sitting near the screen but, even so, the curve is more subtle than obvious.

And, yes, this applies to the models from both LG and Samsung. The sharp colours on their screens are due to the new OLED displays, not the curvature, and can also be enjoyed on the cheaper ranges of flat-screen OLED TVs.

Both companies point to the immersive experience of watching a show on a curved screen, but the same had been said of stereoscopic 3-D. And we all know how much consumers bought into 3-D displays.

The reason that curved screens leave me cold is that no content is made that way.

Movies and TV shows are still shot in more or less the same format that was created more than a hundred years ago. Viewing a flat image on an artificially curved screen is akin to watching an old black-and-white movie that has been colourised. It looks fake.

But while it is easy to put curved screens into the group of technological advancements which serve no real purpose, there is another area in which they might work, and that is in mobile and portable devices.

The 5.7-inch display on the South Korea-only Samsung Galaxy Round smartphone does not flex, but the fact that it curves along its width makes the large device fit better in your palm.

LG has announced that it will make curved phones next year and said its screens will be "bendable and unbreakable". Imagine what you could do with:

- a device that fits nicely in your back pocket, even when you sit down, as the built-in curve is designed to accommodate the shape of your bum;

- a smartphone screen angled so it displays content for your eyes only;

- a phone with a curved strip which displays incoming notifications while its primary screen remains on standby.

Because you would view these portable devices much closer to your eyes than you would a TV screen, a curved screen would have a greater impact on your level of enjoyment.

This same curved strip can also be added to steering wheels, remote controls, video-game controllers and many other everyday items.

I am waiting for the day when I do not have to hold a tablet, but can wear it instead.

I dream of a lightweight screen as wide as my forearm is long, curling around my arm so that it would not need to be held.

It might seem like science fiction now, but a curved screen makes this, and much more, possible.


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