The premium commercial display company Planar will have a transparent OLED panel on the market in roughly thee months, and has started showing the unit at special events like yesterday’s SEGD XLAB conference in New York.
I was at that event – moderating the retail panel – and saw the 55-inch OLED in the lobby. In short, it’s beautiful and kind of amazing, but the price is not for the faint of heart. The standard unit costs $14,995 USD.
But like all display tech, it won’t stay at that as more OLED comes into production and more display companies introduced the technology for commercial use.
The reason it is kind of amazing is that it is as thin as a sheet of glass, and has no back or edge-lighting. It is truly transparent, but does true blacks and solid whites, which doesn’t really happen on a transparent LCD. I mention black and white, but if that takes your thinking in a weird way, be assured it does full, rich colour.
The things can also be stacked, so you could imagine use-cases like a glass diving wall that can be truly transparent, as opposed to LED slat windows that are kinda sorta transaprent.
The Planar LookThru is absolutely intended for the commercial display market, and would make little to no sense for consumer use, except for the crazily-rich. This is the sort of thing that would show up in very high end retail and corporate spaces designed by architects. That would be why the LookThru was debuted at an experiential design show, and not some pro AV show.
To sow interest in that market, Planar announced at XLAB the first Clear Concept Awards, a display design competition created to stimulate innovative uses of the LookThru OLED. The contest is co-sponsored by the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) – which runs XLAB – and Digital Signage Expo (DSE).
The grand prize winner of the contest gets an expenses-paid trip for two to Las Vegas to attend DSE, an award, a spot on a panel, and one of those lovely LookThru units.
That’s pretty smart – as you want high end designers thinking about and playing with the tech. Winning that panel is a pretty good carrot to drive some interest and activity.
The color reproduction on the unit I saw – and other OLEDs I have seen – is gorgeous. But it’s important for people interested in the tech to factor in some caveats. There’s the sticker price, of course. But OLED has some image retention issues, just like plasma did in its early years. It also can’t handle being put in direct sunlight because of the organic properties, I’m told.
Planar will have the unit at the Infocomm Connections event next week in New York, if you are in town and want to have a look.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.