By Trudy Walsh
Dick Tracy long ago set the gold standard for gadgetry. The comic strip boasted the first popular depictions of jet packs and magnetic-powered space vehicles.
And of course, the comic-strip hero’s two-way radio-TV wristwatch, which later became a two-way wrist computer.
Hewlett-Packard is evidently following Tracy’s lead by developing a wristwatch for the military that will run on solar energy and show maps and other strategic information.
The wristwatch will have a thin plastic display screen that’s flexible and doesn’t break, said Carl Taussig, director of information surfaces at HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., as reported by CNN.com.
The watch display will be printed with flexible solar panels that were developed by Power Film, which also makes solar-powered tents for military use.
Plastic display screens are lighter than glass displays and use less power. They cause less wear and tear on the environment too, as they use 40 times less raw material than glass, Taussig said.
Plastic-display technology is more popular than you might think. Sriram Peruvemba, vice president of marketing for E Ink, developer of the Amazon Kindle’s display technology, says that more than 20 million flexible plastic displays are currently on the market.
Most of the available plastic screens go into small gadgets such as wristwatches and memory sticks, Peruvemba said. In a few years, these displays will be used for larger devices such as e-readers and laptops, he told CNN.
The plastic display screens are backed by a thin strip of metal-coated plastic that’s about 50 microns thick, which is about the width of a human hair. This thin layer is printed with transistors and treated with acid and metal coatings, so that it can conduct electricity and create sharp images.
Now all we need is for some company to get serious about making a feasible jet pack.