Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is it all in the display?

Perhaps the single technology that made eReading devices possible was the development of eInk by E Ink Corporation and first seen in the 2004 SONY LIBRIĆ© in Japan. The technology and variants of it spread to other eReaders, to highway signage, and to cell phone displays. The technology allowed for clean and clear display of readable type in any lighting condition or at any viewing angle. Now we see electronic ink displays made by several manufacturers coming into the market on the widest range of eReading devices we've ever seen.

We saw the announcements last week of the Blio, which Ray Kurzweil said was the result of LCD displays of such high quality that a different technology wasn't needed to be able to read.

Well, add to this mix a new technology that purportedly went into mass production this week: The 3Qi from Pixel Qi. Headed by display guru Mary Lou Jepson who started the One Child One Laptop campaign a few years ago, the 3Qi (pronounced three chee) modifies the high-battery consumption LCD monitor by letting it go into a front-lit reading mode that draws power only when pages are turned. The single screen technology allows all the color and speed needed to display video, images, and Web sites, but also gives low-power consumption grayscale viewing for reading.

So the question is whether a hybrid screen is the answer to reading on computers or if people actually would rather have separate devices for reading and computing. As in all similar situations, I suspect the answer is both, at least in the near-term.

Pixel Qi has not yet announced a list of devices that their technology will appear in, but I expect we'll hear a lot of noise from that front in the near future.

From Popular Science (POPSCI): Pixel Qi: The LCD Screen That Could Finally Kill Paper For Good
From Pixel Qi: E-Paper with Color and Video
From E Ink Corporation: Electronic Paper Displays

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