CES: See-through screens - gimmick or instant gadget love?

Samsung shows prototype at trade show, while users question usefulness of transparent screen

Forget 3D TVs. The next big wave to rush down the display tech pipeline are laptops and handheld gadgets with transparent OLED screens.

At CES 2010, Samsung Electronics showed off a prototype laptop with a 14-inch see-through color OLED screen. According to Engadget, the screen is up to 40% transparent when turned off (versus 25% for other displays).

That laptop may not be ready for market, but Samsung also announced the IceTouch media player with a transparent OLED touchscreen that users can control by tapping on the back of the screen, letting users continue to watch videos on the 2-inch color screen.

Available in the first half of this year, the IceTouch will hold 16GB of music or movies. It will come only in white though users can customize the color via separately-sold skins. No price was announced.

Samsung's news comes after last month's announcement of Sony Ericsson's pricey Xperia Pureness smartphone. Engadget called it basically a "$30 prepaid candybar" phone lacking key modern phone features such as a camera or high-resolution display, but impressed with its "wild transparent display" that will leave you "smitten or confused and dismayed by the $1,000 sticker price."

Indeed, but will early adopters, influenced by the technology shown on TV and movies (see clip starting at 1:37 of the trailer for the coming movie, Date Night) , embrace transparent screens enough for prices to fall and the technology to become mainstream?

Engadget readers, who comprise just such a demographic, were split on the usefulness of transparent screens such as the Samsung laptop.

"Why would one even want their monitor to be transparent? Isn't it annoying enough when you're stuck seeing your reflection on your glossy monitor when you're looking at a dark image?" wrote Solidstate89. "Hooray for more distractions in your viewing monitor!"

"It's for hit-men, so they can surf the net, watch the target and see danger coming," joked another reader, One Love.

"This is so PIMP!! I love it!" wrote a third, Hyperspaced.

Some readers suggested the transparent glass would be more useful embedded in car windshields, where they could be used to pop up relevant information for drivers on the fly, or on a point-of-sale register, so that cashier and customer can see each other.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
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