What will fashion do with cheap displays?
It has taken far longer than it should, but we are now finally seeing flexible polymer displays being forged into wrist watch straps, bendy and curvy phones.
Fashion has created many different clothing accessories over the years. As 1920s era fashion makes a small comeback, it can't be long before headbands and hairbands come back (I am no fashion guru, I don't know all the proper industry jargon, but you know what I mean - tiaras and all those things).
They would be a perfect display platform. Hair accessories can be pretty much any shape and size, and be a single display zone or multiple ones. Some could even use holographic displays, so that the accessory seems to change its form, or have optional remote components seemingly hanging free in the nearby air.
Displays would also make good forehead jewellery, such as electronic eyebrows, holographic jewels, smart bindis, forehead tattoos and so on. They could change colour or pattern according to emotions for example. As long as displays are small, skin flexing doesn't present too big an engineering barrier.
In fact, small display particles such as electronic glitter could group together to appear as a single display, even though each is attached to a different piece of skin. Thus, flexing of the skin is still possible with a collection of rigid small displays, which could be millimetre sized electronic glitter. Electronic glitter could contain small capacitors that store energy harvested from temperature difference between the skin and the environment, periodically allowing a colour change.
However, it won't be just the forehead that is available once displays become totally flexible. That will make the whole visible face an electronic display platform instead of just a place for dumb makeup. Smart freckles and moles could make a fashion reappearance. Lips and cheeks could change colour according to mood and pre-decided protocols, rather than just at the whim of nature.
Other parts of the body would likely house displays too. Fingernails and toenails could be an early candidate since they are relatively rigid. The wrist and forearm are also often exposed. Much of the rest of the body is concealed by clothing most of the time, but seasonal displays are likely when it is more often bare. Beach displays could interact with swimwear, or even substitute for it.
In fact, enabling a multitude of tiny displays on the face and around the body will undoubtedly create a new fashion design language. Fashion has always had an extensive symbology and adding electronic components to the various items will extend its potential range.
It is impossible to predict what different things will mean to mainstream and sub-cultures, as meanings evolve chaotically from random beginnings. But there will certainly be many people and groups willing to capitalise on the opportunities presented.
Clothing and accessories such as jewellery are also obvious potential display platforms. A good clue for the preferred location is the preferred location today for similar usage. For example, many people wear logos, messages and pictures on their T-shirts, whereas other items of clothing remain mostly free of them. The T-shirt is therefore by far the most likely electronic display area.
Belts, boots, shoes and bag-straps offer a likely platform too, not because they are used so much today, but because they again present an easy and relatively rigid physical platform.
Timescales for this run from historical appearance of LED jewellery at Christmas (which I am very glad to say I also predicted well in advance) right through to holographic plates that appear to hover around the person as they walk around.
I've explained in previous blogs how actual floating and mobile plates could be made using plasma and electro-magnetics. But the timescale of relevance in the next few years is that of the cheaper and flexible polymer display.
As costs fall and size increases, in parallel with an ever improving wireless and cloud infrastructure, the potential revenue from a large new sector combining the fashion and display industries will make this not so much likely as inevitable.