HP has a long history of spending money on research and development, but as with most companies the curtain is rarely drawn back on what's imminent from such research. In Shanghai, HP gave Gizmodo a sneak peek at its flexible display and circuit plans. At the closing keynote of the HP Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai, John Apostolopolous — who hold the title of "Distinguished Technologist and the Director of the Mobile and Immersive Experience Lab (MIX Lab), in HP Labs" (so his business card would be all sorts of folding fun) — discussed HP's research into both flexible display technologies and memristors — integrated circuits with memory storage capabilities — and more specifically, where it sees such technologies going in the very near future.
We've known about Memristors for quite some time now — the theory for them dates back to the early 1970s and HP's been working on them for some time, but according to Apostolopolous HP could look at replacing almost all of its storage technologies, from RAM to flash to hard drives with Memristors within the next couple of years. Outlining a concept classroom based around flexible Memristor-based tablets, Apostolopolous said that the technology's advantages weren't limited to just smaller storage circuits:
"Memristor (based storage devices) will require less power, which means we can have a smaller battery, which means devices can be even lighter. It's also fast, and cloud powered; the sophisticated processing can be done in the cloud, so we're not limited by the processing power on the device itself."
The flexible display concepts that Apostolopolous talked up would be potentially available within the next couple of years as well. It uses HP's Self Aligned Imprint Lithography (SAIL) to deliver a lightweight transparent flexible display that, according to Apostolopolous, is "nearly unbreakable".
Apostolopolous' vision of the flexible display future includes significantly lighter laptops and tablets, much cheaper curved displays as well as wearable computing, an area where the durability of a flexible plastic display could have some genuine potential.
It'll be a number of years before we see wearable computers, but HP's reafirmed that it'll re-enter the mobile tablet market this year with a Windows 8 tablet, although all HP representatives — there sadly wasn't a chance to query Apostolopolous on his research — were reticent to say anything regarding its Windows 8 tablet beyond that it would ship at some point this year.
Alex Kidman travelled to Shanghai as a guest of HP.