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The First OLED Touch Table & Other Experiments

Ideum has integrated 55” and 65” LG OLED displays into experimental touch tables, but these won’t be released anytime soon
Authored by
Jim Spadaccini
Founder & Creative Director

Ever since OLED displays first emerged more than a decade ago, we’ve been following the development and commercialization of this compelling technology. At times, we have even included OLED screens in touch display prototypes.

Our early experiments yielded no usable products. Tests revealed the “noisy” nature of OLEDs, which interfered with the touch sensor technology. Also, early OLED displays were relatively low-resolution (and some still are) — another barrier to adoption for displays that are only an arm's length away from the user's eye.

The newest generation of OLED displays seemed more promising. The two OLED prototypes we built are very responsive and extraordinarily bright, as the 65” display clocks in twice as bright as its fully commercial counterpart, at 800 nits vs. 400 nits. In addition, they have an excellent viewing angle with high-contrast and very true dark colors, and we’ve been able to successfully integrate them with touch sensors.

So why not release an OLED touch table? In short, the current technology doesn't meet our product line’s longevity requirements.

Virtually all Ideum products currently use LG commercial monitors (except the 75” 8K; more on that later), signal boards, and control cards, etc. LG rates these screens for 24/7 operation, and they've been extremely reliable and long lasting. In fact, some of our touch tables have been in regular service for over a decade.

Sadly, commercial-grade 4K OLED displays are not yet available. In our recent experiments with consumer OLED displays, we found them highly susceptible to pixel burn-in, even over a single weekend test. Pixel burn-in has been an issue for display technology for decades, from CRT monitors, to plasma monitors, and now OLEDs. A very minor issue for commercial LED displays, it's the main barrier to OLED's long-term reliability as a touch display.

We have been actively looking at ways to mitigate this burn-in, but so far it seems unlikely that this current generation of OLED displays will meet our standards for a touch product. These non-commercial OLED displays themselves have a number of preventative measures and even remedies for burn in, but they are really designed to display video, not the static content that often accompanies touch screen interactive. However, we are considering adding some OLED monitors to our rental fleet since these monitors do show well when used on a more periodic basis.

Other Alternative Displays

Based on client requests, through the years we have occasionally developed touch systems and touch tables that use non-commerical monitors. A few years back, we developed a series of custom touch tables for ACMI, Australia's national museum of screen culture. Along with a custom RFID reader, these unique touch tables incorporated QLED displays. The request for the QLED displays came from ACMI and Grumpy Sailor, the firm that designed the software. Using a very dark background for their custom software, the QLED displays have truer blacks than the available commercial displays. We took extra time to work on cooling and on making the units more easily serviceable. So far, three years after opening the tables are still going strong.

The success of these monitors led to the release of the Pro 75” 8K touch table. This touch table, which is still the only 8K one that we know of, uses a similar QLED display. Our first article of this unique 8k touch table is at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University and it too, after almost two years, is still running fine.

What’s Next?

Ideum is always interested in ‘what’s next’ and we will continue to prototype and develop new products with the latest display technology.  We are always open to developing custom screens and touch tables. In addition to our ability to engineer new touch systems, we have a full fabrication studio and have developed lots of custom exhibits and installations.

We will be watching closely as the major display manufacturers continue to develop OLED displays. Also, it is quite possible that OLEDs will be surpassed by yet another emerging display technology in the near future — MicroLED — but that is another story for another time.

Ideum will continue to work on prototypes using promising new technologies, and we will let you know when we have more to share about their development.