By Kim Yoo-chul
LG Electronics, the world's No. 2 TV maker, announced Monday a plan to unveil a "rollable" OLED TV at a technology fair in the United States early next year.
"LG Electronics is working on developing a 55-inch rollable TV, which will be introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show (ICES) in January 2016," an official in charge of LG's technology research center told The Korea Times.
The TV will be a prototype, which means that mass-production will be possible three or four years later.
Another official said the rollable feature could become a new "form factor" for LG to establish a new ecosystem focusing on OLED-related things from materials to tech.
"LG's move to exhibit a prototype of a rollable TV has huge meaning in the global technology industry amid the industry's gradual shift toward flexible OLED technology. The launch of the 55-inch rollable TV represents LG's readiness to lead over rivals in the heated race for applications with large-sized flexible OLED panels, which are more profitable than devices using small OLED displays," said the official.
He added that unlike existing curved televisions, its rollable TV could create an easy-to-carry tube that could be carried as easily as a briefcase and be installed wherever customers want to watch programs.
LG Electronics is teaming up with technology affiliates of LG Group for the project.
LG Display will be in charge of supplying transparent and flexible OLED panels for use in the new TV.
For mass-production, LG's battery unit ― LG Chem, the world's biggest electric car battery manufacturer, will supply curved or even wire batteries for the new TV.
A spokesman at LG Electronics said it was mulling over the possibility of releasing the 55-inch rollable OLED TV at the 2016 ICES; however, nothing has been decided yet.
"There are still a lot of technological barriers to put the conceptual TV into the industry's mainstream; however, the key thing is that people's lives will be changed in good ways thanks to improvements in technology," the official said.
At this year's IFA fair, the European version of the ICES, LG exhibited a portable rollable keyboard.
LG identified OLED as its next business area with Han Sang-beom, CEO of LG Display, saying; "Through displays, we share information. Through displays, we communicate. Through displays, we look into the future and dream about it," in a keynote speech at this year's IFA.
The LG executive spoke of a future where windows, desks, and even walls could be made of displays. OLEDs can take any shape, they're flexible, and they can be transparent, so there's real potential for augmented reality in the future.
IHS Technology, a research firm, said patent applications for OLED flexible display technologies have been rising.
"Flexible displays are the next-generation display panels fabricated on a paper-thin and flexible substrate, so that they can be bent and rolled without damage," said Ian Lim, senior analyst of intellectual property for IHS.