E-Ink, the hot new technology that’s in all of today’s latest e-readers is actually more than 10 years old. The E-Ink Corporation started manufacturing the stuff in 1997 based on work from MIT’s media lab. In the time since, we’ve seen it go into a number of e-reader devices from Sony, Amazon, and lately a slew of other manufacturers.
Just as e-ink is making its way into the mainstream consciousness, a new technology threatens to smash it into oblivion before it ever really catches on. For all its advantages, e-ink screen are far from perfect, and anything e-ink can do, this new technology can do better; and then some.
Before we get into what’s coming, let’s take a look at e-ink in detail.
E-Ink’s two greatest strengths are its low-power consumption, and the fact that e-ink screens are easy on the eyes. In a world where devices with vivid screens last a day if you’re lucky, and strain your eyes if you look at them too long, e-ink can be a godsend in the right application. This is why e-readers are such a popular application of e-ink technology. People read books for weeks, not days, and if they had to charge their e-reader as often as their phone, they would never get off the shelf. A reading session can last for hours, and looking at LCD screens for that long has always been considered bad for the eyes. Because of this, e-ink scores two big wins.
E-Ink is nice, but not for everything. Looking at anything but a static page on e-ink is a good way to get a headache. E-Ink manages to achieve its low power using a technology that takes a half-second or so to refresh. This causes a problem when displaying video and web pages since they are out the gates in fractions of a second. And what about colour? Most e-ink screens are grayscale only, meaning that anything other than pages of text look worse on e-ink than on any other screen. This is the big reason why e-ink, despite it advantages, has only really been used in e-readers. Any other kind of media just wouldn’t work on this technology.
The New King on the Block
So what’s a print media enthusiast to do? On the one hand, e-ink allows easy reading and low-power consumption, but on the other anything but text looks awful. If only there was a technology that combined low power, lower eye-strain, and still allowed you to view full colour, full motion media. If only…
It turns out there is such a technology: Pixel Qi. Pixel Qi is a new dual mode screen technology from Mary Lou Jespen, the genius designer behind the screen on the OLPC laptop. Pixel Qi combines a regular full power LCD with a low-power, full colour “transflective” mode that has the strengths of E-Ink, but in glorious full-colour with full motion.
What does this mean? It means tablet computers created with Pixel Qi can go into low power e-reader mode and still allow a wider range of media viewing, and also go into regular LCD mode when you just wanna watch a video the way we do nowadays.
Pixel-Qi is the future of multimedia tablets, combining e-ink’s strengths, with new media powers. E-Ink is the current king of print media tablets. The King is Dead. Long Live the King!Category technology Tags eink, ereader