TV's Flexible Future

Oled, flexible screen technology
In the orange light of the clean room at the Universal Display Corporation, scientists are working on technology that would make Buck Rogers smile, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"As you can see it's quite flexible," says Anna Chwang, senior scientist, as she displays a paper thin film with images running across it.

It uses something called "OLEDs" (organic light emitting devices), a thin film of chemicals, 1/10,000 of an inch thick, that turns an electronic signal into a picture, much like a television does.

OLEDs have already been spread on glass and used for cell-phone displays. These scientists are perfecting a way to spread them onto plastic to create flexible OLEDs.

Hollywood science fiction, right?

Actually, the future seen in the Tom Cruise movie "Minority Report" may be just around the corner.

"Tom Cruise was busy doing this (waves arms wildly) in front of a transparent screen," says Janice Mahon, Universal Display vice president.

Chwang, the Universal Display senior scientist, shows a prototype -- a cylindrical viewer with a rolled up screen that can be pulled in and out.

"This can be a cell phone, this can be a camera, whatever, and then what you would do is pull out your display ... And when you're done, just roll it back up," says Chwang.

Imagine a picture phone or Internet access. To achieve this technology's full mind-bending potential they need to get the screen bigger and the color better. They say they're still some three to five years away from having this flexible technology ready for mass-marketed consumer products.

But for everyone here, it's a question of when, not if.

"I would like to take my laptop monitor and just fold it up and go like that, so I don't get a bad back from carrying it around," says Universal Display Corp. vice president Julie Brown.

They're convinced they've seen both a vision of the future and the future of vision.