Royole’s stretchable micro-LED display could lead to twisty wearable devices

royole stretchable micro led display

Credit: Royole
  • Royole has unveiled what it says is the first stretchable micro-LED display that can be mass-produced.
  • You can twist it, pull it, and even bend it into spherical shapes.
  • It could lead to new wearable devices, smart car windshields, and beyond.

Royole is mostly known for its so-so foldable phones, but it might soon reset your expectations for wearable tech like smartwatches. The company has introduced what it says is the first stretchable micro-LED display to work with industrial manufacturing processes — that is, it can be mass-produced.

The 2.7-inch, 96×60 demo panel might not look like much by itself, but it can take more abuse than other flexible screens. The display is stretchable like you’d expect, but you can also twist it, pull it, and deform it with concave and convex shapes. While the technology isn’t quite “3D free form” like Royole claims (convex bends can’t go beyond 40 degrees, for instance), it can take a lot of punishment  while working properly.

Related: The best foldable phones you can get

The stretchable display would clearly be useful for wearables that could either handle more abuse or conform to new shapes. However, the micro-LED design also transmits more light than flexible OLED — Royole envisions augmented and virtual reality glasses, smart car windshields, and other devices where you’d want a transparent view.

Royole didn’t say when the stretchable micro-LED might make its way into production display tech.

We wouldn’t count on using this any time soon. Royole will need to scale the technology to different sizes and resolutions. More importantly, the company needs to find customers. Royole will have to compete with Samsung and other large display producers with their own takes on flexible screens.  The brand will have to convince device makers that it’s worth using a Royole stretchable display over “good enough” alternatives that can be made in larger numbers, and possibly at lower prices. If it succeeds, though, there’s a bright future for flexible screens on everything from your clothes to your car.

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