SID 2011: E Ink

Today was browse-the-exhibitions day for me. I have been interested in the development of E Ink displays for quite some time and it seems the company is making some progress toward integrating color and touch into its E Ink displays, which dominate e-book readers of today.

Although I was happy to see working demonstrations of color E Ink displays at SID 2011, there were two areas that need major improvements. First, as you can see from the photo above, color does not show very well on color E Ink displays. Granted these were only the first iteration of color and the colors were limited to just 4096 greyscales, but the lack of richness in the colors dampened my enthusiasm somewhat.

Two, touch responsiveness. Sony took the lead in integrating touch with E Ink displays with mixed results. The first iteration, the PRS-600, made use of a touch layer on top of the E Ink display. The result was an innovative idea: a possible paper replacement notepad, but with a reflective (as in glare), dull display. Writing was great, reading wasn’t. Sony later replaced the touch layer with IR-based touch technology, which improved the E Ink display’s readability. I played around with the E Ink CDK (Color Development Kit) and the main focus area for companies that integrate touch unto the Triton E Ink display will need to be touch responsiveness. When you have to wait for the display to respond when you’re writing, the experience is something you’d rather not repeat too often.

I was excited about color and touch, but I was also a little disappointed. There was one area that did not disappoint: high resolution E Ink displays. The photo above is of the E Ink Triton 9.7-inch EPD with a 2400×1650 pixel format good for 300 dpi.

The photo above has not been retouched in any way and shows just how crisp the 300-dpi E Ink display is. The bit depth is limited to just four so we can expect a major boost in greyscale improvements. And with better rendering algorithms the reading experience from a high resolution E Ink display like this one should be most excellent. There was also a 9.68-inch 1600×1200 pixel format version good for 206 dpi with very good readability, but I’m hoping the 300-dpi version will make it into the next e-readers from Amazon and the like.

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