For so long we've been surrounded by uniformly-shaped electronic devices that it's hard to think of them being any other shape than rectangular. Sharp, however, may just have made the technological breakthrough that will allow the screens of our gadgets to come in different shapes. Calling it "Free-Form Display" technology, Sharp has found a new way of organizing the circuits on liquid crystal displays. Traditionally, the circuit drivers run around the outside of the LCD screen where the circuits are organized through the pixels of the display. Here's how Sharp describes it:
"Conventional displays are rectangular because they require a minimal width for the bezel in order to accommodate the drive circuit, called the gate driver, around the perimeter of the screen's display area. With the Free-Form Display, the gate driver's function is dispersed throughout the pixels on the display area. This allows the bezel to be shrunk considerably, and it gives the freedom to design the LCD to match whatever shape the display area of the screen needs to be."
We're not going to see round smartphones just yet, however that clamshell design so beloved of the early noughties could get a whole lot more realistic with the advent of free-form display technology, couldn't it? The most obvious place for this breakthrough display tech will be on the dashboard displays of vehicles, and on signage. But there is one consumer tech sector where Sharp's Free-Form Display will do very well: wearables. A round watch face on Apple's iWatch could really set the firm's first wearable (expected by the end of this year) apart from its rivals, which include Samsung and LG. Of course, Motorola is already one step ahead of everybody with a rounded smartwatch display.
Sharp says it's targeting 2017 to commercialize these irregulararly shaped displays. Alrighty then: bring on the hamburger-shaped smartphone and banana phone guys!