The technology that powers your Kindle may soon have military applications. For soldiers in combat zones, gadgets like GPS and heads-up displays are fantastically useful, provided they have the battery to power them. One of the most power-hungry components in these devices is the screen. While we may have reached a point where a gadget can run for days on a single charge, it's still not sufficient for grunts who may be in the field for weeks without access to power.
Hewlett-Packard's Information Surfaces Lab adopted a two-pronged approach when designing the flexible wrist display for troops. One, the device is charged via solar power, which is abundant unless the soldiers are deployed in the Arctic or Antarctic where the nights can be up to six months long.
The second is using e-ink technology like that found in most e-book readers. Unlike conventional screens, e-ink requires power only when refreshing a page, plus devices using such displays have standby times measured in weeks. Only 200 microns thin (the diameter of a human hair is between 50 and 120 microns), the bendable unit is hardier than standard panels.
The first prototypes will be available to the U.S. military early next year. Though there is no firm timeline, we believe this technology will start trickling down to the consumer and enterprise markets sooner than you think.