Sharp today announced plans to produce a new type of screen dubbed 'Free-Form Display' that could radically change the shape of our future electronics. Recent years have brought a number of products with novel form factors, like the curved Samsung Gear Fit and the upcoming circular Moto 360 smartwatch. Sharp's new display tech could potentially facilitate far more unique designs than presently possible.
Conventional displays usually integrate certain circuitry within their bezels, forcing manufacturers to generally opt for rectangular designs. With Sharp's new tech, that circuitry is spread throughout the display, allowing for not only very thin bezels, but also a potentially infinite number of shapes. The company released a number of images showing the potential for Free-Form Display to enhance in-vehicle infotainment systems. In one, the natural curves of a vehicle's instrument clusters are built into the display, while another shows a screen with concave curves that could fit within a traditional instrument array.
Although Sharp is only showing vehicle-focused designs today, the company notes that Free-Form Display is equally suited for creating smaller tech like wearable devices with oval displays, and it's easy to see a smartphone manufacturer taking a gamble on a non-rectangular phone once the new displays make their way to the market. Of course, extensive software modification would be required to make proper use of a round display, but smartphone manufacturers are no stranger to pursuing odd form factors for the sake of differentiation. There's no timeline yet on when that might happen, but Sharp says it plans to enter mass-production "at the earliest possible date."