Mirasol

Qualcomm:

The reflective displays, based on interferometric modulation (IMOD) technology, offer a significant reduction in power consumption as compared to other display technologies, while extending device battery life [..] Moreover, these displays require no supplemental lighting in most ambient lighting environments and can be viewed in bright sunlight.

What makes the Mirasol work?

The Interferometric Modulator (IMOD) element is a simple MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) device that is composed of two conductive plates. One is a thin film stack on a glass substrate, the other is a reflective membrane suspended over the substrate. There is a gap between the two that is filled with air. The IMOD element has two stable states. When no voltage is applied, the plates are separated, and light hitting the substrate is reflected as shown above. When a small voltage is applied, the plates are pulled together by electrostatic attraction and the light is absorbed, turning the element black. This is the fundamental building block from which Qualcomm’s mirasol displays are made.

I don’t quite understand what all that means but there is a video with animations that make it a lot easier.

There are four Mirasol features that Qualcomm is focusing on:

  • Naturally Brilliant Color
  • Sunlight Viewable
  • Low Power
  • Multimedia Capable

Let me go through each of these features one by one. The Mirasol claims the color is brilliant but it really isn’t compared to a decent LCD or OLED. It does look better than some of the color prototype E Ink displays. The Pixel Qi looks much better.

Sunlight viewability looks to be excellent and that’s an important consideration if you do a lot of reading or work outside in the sun. Because the Mirasol is a reflective display there is very little power that is consumed. Multimedia capable is certainly a viable claim since there is both color and the response times are fast enough but not flicker free. In a lot of the videos that I’ve seen there is some flicker when images are being panning. These are just video loops and I haven’t seen anyone use the actual display via touch or buttons.

Multitouch-based interactivity is a requirement for advanced e-readers and tablets. Qualcomm claims that its touch implementation does not have any impact on display quality. We will have to see if that actually is the case.

Qualcomm has stated that it has shipped 5.7-inch 1024×768 Mirasol displays to its partners and products with the display will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

I think Mirasol will be best aligned with budget e-book readers and mobile handsets that require very low power consumption and are used outside more often than indoors. In addition because color really isn’t as brilliant compared to LCDs or OLEDs high-end multimedia tablets will probably not sport the Mirasol.