Virtual reality grabbed the most headlines at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — and it was fun to watch the people “ride” the VR roller coaster. But we were most impressed with the stunning advances in a technology that’s been with us for nearly a century, screens.

Modular Display

Samsung’s modular display was exceedingly cool. Square screens shifted rapidly up and down and side to side, and when they came together, their images merged nearly seamlessly. The purpose of the display was to show off Samsung’s new concept, a television you can scale up or down by adding or removing screens.

Just as jaw-dropping, but for entirely different reasons, was LG’s bendable and rollable screens.

LG also brought along a 4K OLED TV that Mashable rightly called “drool-worthy.” As that description suggests, the quality is difficult to capture in words. The clarity and vibrancy are so far beyond what we’re used to that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a screen. For some background on the differences between LED and OLED, see this video.

OLED, which stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, has been available in TVs for a couple years. At CES, Dell showed off a 30-inch OLED PC monitor that one reviewer called “the killer display tech we’ve been waiting for.” OLED’s response time is as much as 10 times faster than LED’s. Dell also unveiled OLED laptops. “This is not a minor step forward,” explained Digital Trends. “OLED’s arrival is like an Imperial Star Destroyer showing up for a fight between starfighters. Now that it’s here, everything that’s happened before is insignificant.”

We left CES thinking about the enormous impact these advances could have. More and more products can be outfitted with screens, expanding the already enormous potential of the Internet of Things. The possibilities for retail display are intriguing, particularly in terms of blurring the lines between promotion and entertainment. Perhaps shopping centers can fight back against the loss of business to ecommerce by providing an immersive experience that a web site can’t match.

And television — the mind reels. The history of TV has always been driven by creative people finding innovative ways to make the most of technology. In recent decades, premium cable stations, and now streaming services, are offering vast platforms for writers, directors and actors to push storytelling in new directions. How might they be inspired by the hyper-realism of 4K, 8K (yes, that’s coming too) and OLED screens? We can’t wait to find out.

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