The Miracle Bendy Displays of the Future Are Still Years Away

By Brian Barrett on at

The frustration with devices like a hypothetical iWatch — or a completely imaginary roll-up tablet (maybe a Vaio or something?) — is that they're made up of parts, and sometimes those parts don't exist quite yet. Or, in the case of Corning's brilliantly flexible Willow glass, they exist, but no one knows quite how to use them yet.

The bottom line, according to a recent Bloomberg interview? All the bendy gadgets you've ever dreamed of are possible. Just not quite yet.

Companies like Apple and other major OEMs have had access to Willow Glass since June, according to Corning Glass Technologies president James Clappin. But the nature of the material — broad sheets that can roll up like a newspaper — has left its partners stymied over how exactly to implement it:

"People are not accustomed to glass you roll up," Clappin said after an event marking the opening an £530 million factory for liquid-crystal-display glass. "The ability of people to take it and use it to make a product is limited."

Clappin's timeline? Three years. Three years before we see what's probably the next truly life-altering breakthrough in gadgetry.

That may seem like a long time to wait for an iWatch (assuming you care about that sort of thing in the first place), and who knows? It could also just be a head-fake. We could see Willow glass products in our stockings this Christmas. But even if it's the full three years — or longer, that's three years that companies have to plan out the software, the guts, the design, all the other pieces to the flexible tech puzzle. Three years to dream, to plan, to build. The future feels a long way off, sure. But at least we'll be ready for it. [Bloomberg]