Light reading

A new project led by GE Aviation Systems Newmarket aims to create information displays with enhanced readability in bright lighting conditions. The displays are intended for use in applications where clear, unambiguous interpretation of information is vital.

Safety-critical examples of such applications include radar screens, displays presenting camera information to surgeons involved in keyhole surgery, and safety warning signs with variable messages. Other applications include screen displays on cash machines, which are often sited outdoors, and screens relaying close-up action at outdoor entertainment and sporting events.

The research programme called ENDVIEW, which is supported by the Technology Strategy Board, will deliver enhanced clarity of static and dynamic images through the application of high-performance LED arrays and novel optics systems.

Most display users currently accept that viewability is dependent on the environment. On portable equipment the viewability can often be altered by shielding the display. However, there are many situations where the equipment position is fixed and the display must still be viewable in variable lighting environments.

Most manufacturers of equipment that incorporates a display wish to purchase a suitable commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) product. However, current COTS displays have unsatisfactory readability in some conditions.

The new research programme will have a multi-disciplinary approach involving human factors studies, metrology and modelling.

The human factors studies will be carried out by the University of Abertay Dundee, which has worked previously in the development of usability metrics for the readability of displays, most recently through the ENDSENSE project.

The metrology aspect will be covered by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which will provide a measurement laboratory containing equipment to measure displays in a range of lighting conditions.

Multi-physics modelling for optical and thermal design of the display and its relation to readability will be undertaken by Greenwich University.

The end-user target requirements will be evaluated using a demonstrator test vehicle by GE Aviation Systems  Newmarket and Raymarine. GE Aviation Systems Newmarket will also be involved with developing coating, LED backlighting and optical-guiding solutions to improve the readability of static and dynamic images. Others involved with that effort include Thin Film Solutions, a company specialising in optical coatings, and Design LED Products, which specialises in optical guiding based on LED arrays.

In addition to the readability requirements, the research will also address minimisation of power consumption and thermal management. Power consumption is particularly important for battery-operated displays and thermal management for applications where the displays are mounted.

The fundamental knowledge gained through the human factors studies, modelling and measurement will be disseminated through events organised with the UK Knowledge Transfer Networks and through NPL input into generating end-user guides and standards.