Today, LCDs are chopped up in varying sizes for specific uses: 4.5 inches for a cell phone. 15 inches to go in a laptop. 50 inches for your TV. After that, they all go their separate ways in your life. But according to the WSJ, Google is working on a new type of display technology that can snap together like Lego bricks and bring these different displays together.
The research is said to be happening inside its top secret Google X lab, where ex-MIT researcher Mary Lou Jepsen–known for her work on the One Laptop Per Child project and building computer screens you can see in the sun–is leading a small team of engineers on the project to overcome a slew of problems: The screens must connect to one another, they can’t have bezels, they also can’t show seams of any sort, and display software needs to be completely rethought to how it might handle and accommodate a sudden stretch or reduction in pixel count.
But assuming Google can overcome those obstacles, the possibilities are pretty wild. You could snap together a screen for any occasion in your life, snaking a glowing banner across the room for a birthday party, building a dollhouse with an easily customizable digital facade, or maybe, sacrificing everyone’s phones to build a monstrous TV for the Superbowl.
Indeed, as wild as that Superbowl concept may sound, Google has been heading in such a direction through multiple research projects. WIth its Project Ara smartphone (also out of Google X), the company is working on a phone with hot-swappable components that can be fixed or upgraded just by snapping a piece on or off. And last year, the company showed off an Chrome browser experiment called Google Racer, in which you could lay smartphones and tablets of various sizes, side-by-side, to create one seamless track for a game. And a real conspiracy theorist might even point to Google’s new Material Design principles, in which every element of user interface is modeled after a real, tactile object, as creating the building blocks of UI for a snap-together screen system.
Google has oft been labeled an engineering-driven company, and never before has that been so apparent. While Apple is sculpting the next must-have product in its hidden workshop, Google is churning out digital clay, crafting what you might call electronic bricks, digital Lego, Voltron gadgets, or even Minecraft for real life. Google isn’t just trying to build your next gadget. It’s trying to invent the stuff that will convince you to build your next gadget.