By combining high-power LEDs with an array of transistors, a startup called Lumiode has figured out a way to take large displays made up of arrays of LEDs and shrink them down to make displays that are very, very small, very, very efficient, and very, very bright.
Conventional displays work like this: you've got bright white LEDs at the back, and then a bunch of filters and stuff in front that selectively let colors through to create an image. And that's fine, it works, we use it. At larger sizes, like billboard size, you can do away with all of the filters and instead just use an array of LEDs by itself, altering the color and the image by turning them on and off directly. That's why giant LED displays are so bright: there's nothing in between you and the light source.
Lumiode takes this idea and shrinks it down from something the size of a Times Square billboard into something just a millimeter on a side. It's a crazily small display made of an array of LEDs controlled directly by transistors, and the prototype in the picture above contains some 2,500 individual LED pixels that are 30x brighter and 10x more efficient than a more traditional display.
That's not 30 percent brighter, that's 30 times brighter, with a density of 1,200 pixels per inch (one of Apple's Retina displays has about 300 PPI). It's so small and bright that it's not even really practical to look at it directly: instead, displays like these will be the basis for the next generation of microdisplays, head-mounted displays, pico projectors, and head-up displays.
This Lumiode prototype comes from a startup out of Columbia University, and is probably a year or so away from commercialization. Within two years, the company will be producing 2,400 PPI displays at 320x480, and in not too much longer we might be seeing them power things like, oh, I don't know, this?
Posted on location at CES 2013 in Las Vegas.