Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Light Pipes Put Images Where You Want Them

Everybody knows about fiber optics; that’s the glass technology that can bring high-speed broadband Internet access to your home or office. But why would you find it in the Exhibit Hall at Display Week 2014? The answer is that images are information, too, and the same fiber optic features that carry bits of data also make it possible to deliver images where you want them. INCOM has some interesting demonstrations of its fused fiber optic technology on display in its booth.

For example, consider the control panel created by one of the company’s partners: Fairlight. Fairlight makes controllers for use in professional audio and video editing. The software used for these tasks is very complex, and the controllers have keys that provide quick access to the different commands. It would take an acre of buttons, however, to cover all the different choices.
The solution is to provide context-sensitive keys; each key takes on a different function depending on the type of task you’re doing. The problem with this is that it would be confusing to mark all the possible functions on each key. What is needed is a way to change the content of the individual keycaps on the fly. And that is what INCOM’s technology makes possible.

The trick relies on a simple, low-cost LCD panel mounted inside the control panel. INCOM’s fused fiber optics blocks channel the light from the panel to the keycap. Then by changing the image displayed by the panel, the image on the key cap changes. And you get an instantly changing control panel without the cost and complexity of creating separate displays for each key.
INCOM has used this technology to create controls and display panels for everything from flight simulators to slot machines. The company originally made the materials out of glass but has since added polymer products that reduce weight and cost. INCOM can make just about any shape or size button or display that a client would need. And it makes it possible to get your image from here to there in a flash. -- Alfred Poor

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