Disney Researchers Use Printed Optics to Create Curved Displays

Disney Researchers Use Printed Optics to Create Curved Displays

10 October 2013

Disney Research in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has introduced to the world a new printed optics technology that can create curved displays for interactive imagery.

The technology, codenamed Papillion, was presented during the User Interface Software and Technology conference in St Andrews, Scotland. The technique uses printed optical fibers developed by Ivan Poupyrev and Eric Brockmeyer at Disney Research with the help of Scott Hudson of Carnegie Mellon University to allow designers to create surfaces that can show wraparound interactive imagery. Papillion has already been deployed for designing colored, 3D-printed plastic characters with round, animated eyeballs.

The key to the researchers' breakthrough was placing an LED screen or another image source below or inside the device so that it cannot be seen. The picture was then relayed by optical fibers to a curved surface. The researchers also used a laser in a 3D printer that transforms photopolymer - a polymer that changes its properties when exposed to light - into a bundle of optical fibers. The prototype design that the researchers created has eyeballs that display a pulsing red heart which transforms into a big yellow smiley, and vice versa.

By printing the fibers, it was possible to set the motion of a character's eyeballs and print the display that shows it in just one pass, commented Markus Gross, director of Disney Research Zurich in Switzerland. The technique has the potential to accelerate the creation of movie tie-in toys and also to foster creativity, he said.