Elgan: This year's mobile screens will stun and amaze

How phone and tablet makers will dazzle you with displays

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The tablet dock itself brings some capabilities to the mix. For example, it has its own battery, which extends the life of the phone-tablet operation by a factor of nine, according to Asus.

The tablet can also attach to a full-size keyboard to operate as a kind of laptop. An additional pen can be used as a stylus on the screen, and it can even connect you to the phone when that phone is inside the tablet and out of reach.

NEC's Best Cloud Device

NEC has been showing off an early prototype of a phone currently called the Best Cloud Device. As far as anyone can tell, it's a two-screen "phablet" (midsize between a phone and a tablet) but probably a phone.

Unlike clamshell two-screen devices like the Sony Vaio P clamshell tablet, which has screens on the inside, the Best Cloud Device has screens on the outside.

This sounds strange until you realize that the Apple iPhone 4 and 4s have glass on both the front and back. The Best Cloud Device would, too, and it would work like a giant iPhone. But when you want to double the screen real estate, you just fold it open.

Microsoft's Behind the Screen Overlay technology

Microsoft is working on a combination of 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies in a display system called Behind the Screen Overlay.

Instead of placing 3D glasses or virtual reality goggles on the user's face, Microsoft's technology has the user look through a transparent display.

Cameras on the front of the display monitor the exact position of the user's eyes. Cameras on the back keep track of the user's hands.

Normal desktop objects, like cascading windows, icons and files, would appear on screen, but with the illusion that they're hovering a few inches behind the screen. When the user touches, grabs or moves them, they react as if they were actual floating objects.

The research into what could be done with see-through displays and Kinect-like monitoring of user body parts mirrors Microsoft's vision of the future as simulated in a video called Productivity Future Vision. In that video, taxicab windows display user data and refrigerator doors are see-through displays that give details about what's inside.

Who knows if that idea will ever make it to a desktop near you. But it shows that innovation in screen technology is not only possible, but exciting and transformative.

The consumer electronics industry is focusing this year on innovation in screen design. They're betting that you like what you see. And I think you probably will.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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