One of the areas we’ve been seeing a lot of innovation this year is screen technologies. It’s a key area of development for e-reading and the good news is that it’s now becoming an increasingly important issue for mainstream users as computing goes mobile.
In the e-reading space, the standard today is e-Ink which powers the screens on the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and most of the dedicated ebook reading devices. E-Ink provides a good ink-on-paper reading experience in natural light and has low power consumption for a long battery life. But it’s still expensive to manufacture, only available in black and white, and suffers from slow screen refresh rates which affect things like scrolling and video (not possible currently), and leads to the annoying flash seen when turning pages on ebook readers.
Fujitsu and Bridgestone announced developments this year which address some of these issues, including colour which will be especially important for advertising-driven newspapers and magazines. But the most interesting “game changer” looks like the modified LCD technology coming out of a US/Taiwan start-up called Pixel Qi, founded by Mary Lou Jepsen whose design credits include the innovative screen technology behind the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child).
Pixel Qi’s innovation is to take the LCD and improve it rather than starting with a completely new technology. The ubiquitous LCD provides the good colour saturation and video-switching speed that e-papers lack to which Pixel Qi adds the longer battery life and sunlight readability features needed for effective e-reading and mobile operation. It does this through three selectable screen modes to suit the different reading and operating requirements. The other feature of Pixel Qi’s system that’s likely to boost its chances and reduce costs is that it can be manufactured using existing LCD manufacturing equipment and processes. The screens are scheduled to go into manufacturing later this year. No device manufacturers planning to use it have been named yet.
More in this article from E-paper Central.
Video of Pixel Qi founder Mary-Lou Jepsen demonstrating the Pixel Qi vs Kindle vs traditional LCD laptop.