Flexible OLED Screens - A Bright and Colourful Future for Digital Advertising

In early Jan 2013, Brian Berkeley, senior vice president of Samsung's display lab, announced at CES what is to become the future of display technology with it's OLED flexible screen called Youm. While other manufacturers are in advanced design stages of their own flexible screens, Samsung are the players who are making the industry moves, and it's not just mobile devices that will be part of this revolution - indeed the whole of the way we advertise products is about to change dramatically too.
Flexible design with targeted content.
Clearly smart phones will be one of the first places we see this tech available to the consumer, but there is another industry buzzing about this - digital marketing.
In digital marketing we've already been thorough massive advances in recent years - essentially the low cost and high availability of broadband speed internet connections mean we are increasingly streaming more and more content into our home via the web than our regular TV service. For the consumer it offers far greater choice & flexibility of viewing habits - watch live or schedule your programmes to suit your lifestyle. We are also seeing increasing quantities of interactive content, and integration with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In terms of how the merging technology will change the face of digital media as we know it - flexible screens will have far greater and further reaching impact than today's mobile web access and smart phones.
As web designers we already design and build websites with a responsive design, thanks to CSS3 and HTML5, so we no longer need to build two versions of the site, but what happens when we start getting into the realm of flexible screens? As yet there are no design standards, such as fluid grid we use in responsive design, so there is a whole world of design to play with! We're also no longer restricted to the standard view-port size & shape - curved screens that wraps around the edge of the digital advertising board anyone?
Targeted flexible advertising at point of sale
We're already seeing clever marketing people produce ideas for the technology - targeted advertising on liquor bottles in bars for example (see Flexible screen advertising at point of sale ).
Although this isn't available yet, as designers we like to stay ahead of the tech and push it to its limit, so consider what could be the targeted bar-side advertising using flexible mobile screens:
The design and shape of the clear plastic flexible screen produces a "holographic" type effect, where the image appears to "float" in the middle of the bottle. This is achieved with simple but clever design - the screens are a cornered oval shape, and the content designed stretched with a perspective filter (much like the 'perspective adverts' at sporting events designed specifically for the camera angle). This is then stuck on to the back of the bottle and viewed from the front to produce the result.
When the customer approaches the bar, their smart phone sends an alert to the ad network server which then displays content on the flexiscreen according to their online shopping habits, social media signals, likes, dislikes etc.
It could display an advert for a strawberry type cocktail containing the very drink that the screen is in as the main ingredient and then further up-sell / side-sell the extremely profitable soft-drink mixers based on the fact that the customer loves strawberries, and then suggest a snack to go with those drinks but without wasting valuable advertising space offering crisps that they dislike, instead presenting something they're more likely to buy.
This is just one quick idea floating around this past year, and there is literally no limit to what can be designed with this technology - as Brian Berkeley put it quite excitedly in his keynote speech "Imagine the things you could design with this!"
Lamps where the shade is the light source, wrist-strap camping lamps, advertising on hand-rails, literally any shape and surface is now open to digital advertising space - football clubs would be able to take on a sponsor for half a season without having to change their kit! Once development costs are recouped and the screens are as cheap as CDs we'll be living in a very different world everywhere we turn!
The big question for us designers is - where do you begin when you no longer have to think "flat surface, rectangle viewport"? I work a great deal with responsive design, but still my mind boggles at what 3D shape to start with, and how do I approach a screen that rolls out or unfolds?!
Just when you thought smartphones and responsive design changed the face of online marketing, the world of digital advertising is about to be revolutionised yet again. You heard it here first!

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