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High-Tech Glass: Smart, Bendy and Still Glass

The Exchange

What a week display technology is having. Yes, high-tech glass is stirring the imaginations of web and device users and signaling a future in which this transparent everyday object will be smarter and more useful than ever.

Two of the best-known names in technology are responsible for the buzz, glass constructor Corning (GLW) and software giant Microsoft (MSFT). It is the week of the E3 and Display Week conferences, so if there's a better time to be talking about new glass-related inventions, I don't know when it would be.

First, Corning, which is rolling out a physical product. The Corning, N.Y., company said this week it's launching what it calls Willow Glass -- essentially a flexible glass. Why would you want it? Corning says the product is "an ultra-slim flexible glass, which could revolutionize the shape and form of next-generation consumer electronic technologies."

Willow Glass, Corning said, will be beneficial to creating thin and light displays for current and future electronics devices, such as smartphones, tables and notebook computers. It will also help with curved displays on monitors.

Though Willow Glass is initially being envisioned for display uses, Corning said it was "actively working" on other possible applications, including lighting and solar cells.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has introduced us to Xbox SmartGlass, a piece of software that will get a variety of electronic displays synced up. The Redmond, Wash., company describes it as "an application for Windows 8 [Note -- in prerelease], Windows Phone, and other portable devices that connects phones, PCs and tablets with your Xbox 360 console to make your entertainment smarter, more interactive and more fun."

[From Y! News: Microsoft Makes TVs Smart With "SmartGlass,"Stays Mum on New Xbox]

What SmartGlass effectively does is tie your devices together so that they know what the other is doing. For example, Microsoft says users could start watching a movie on a tablet and move it to their TV in order to keep viewing, but on a larger screen. Additionally, it will allow extra features that aren't currently available when you're using a single screen to watch a show or play a game. One of the image stills Microsoft released shows two connected but different views and control sets for Madden NFL using separate devices.

This is not your father's computer, or even your brother's console.