Feeds

Multi-colour e-ink to splash down in six months?

Red and yellow and pink and glee (eventually)

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Electronic ink is going colour - but you should probably wait a bit for your rainbow-friendly e-reader.

A year ago we looked at e-ink technologies, and suggested it would be 2011 before we saw colour e-ink devices on the shelves. On this occasion it seems we got it about right; though if you can wait until the latter part of the year, and are prepared to pay for it, then you'll get video as well, as e-ink and traditional technologies get closer together in good ways and bad.

On Tuesday E-Ink Corporation demonstrated its Triton colour screen technology, as well as announcing the first device to use it - from Hanvon and priced at around $440 for a 10-inch colour screen that only consumes power while its being updated. But Qualcomm would have us wait until January for the first product using its own technology, despite demonstrating it more than a year ago.

E-ink screens rely on reflected light, so work better in bright sunlight than under the covers; most of them can't be back-lit even if it were desirable, so a reading lamp is essential. They are also static - once an image is displayed it remains, as opposed to the constantly-updating LCD or CRT technology that can make even modern screens uncomfortable to use for long periods.

For an electronic ink technology, the most important factor is how much light the screen can reflect, or absorb on the black bits, and even modern electronic ink tends to be grey-and-slightly-darker-grey rather than black-and-white. The speed with which the screen can update is also important for usability, and overly-reflective glass can affect the users' experience too, but it is colour that everyone has been waiting for.

E-ink isn't just a technology, it's also the name of the E-Ink Corporation. Their greyscale screens already adorn e-book readers from just about everyone.

The latest incarnation, the E Ink Pearl, can be seen offering much better contrast in Amazon's Kindle 3, as well as Sony's latest generation of readers, though it still works on the same principle as earlier designs: tiny beads that are raised or lowered within a pixel to make white or black dots (or slightly raised to make grey):

e-ink_corporation

The beads are suspended in goo, driven to the top by an electrostatic charge

Adding colour to that process is difficult, but can be done by putting different coloured filters on top of adjacent pixels. Make the pixels small enough and the human eye will blur them together to make colours defined by the relative brightness of the sub-pixels, which is what the E Ink Corporation's latest "Triton" screen that was demonstrated last week does:

Sub-pixels of the Triton screen

The pixels are so small that they blur together

Obviously this reduces one's resolution by four, but that might be an acceptable price to pay for colour, which is hard to achieve any other way.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Nice computers don’t need to go to the toilet, says Barclays
Bad computers might ask if you are Sarah Connor
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
YES, iPhones ARE getting slower with each new release of iOS
Old hardware doesn't get any faster with new software
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Microsoft stands on shore as tablet-laden boat sails away
Brit buyers still not falling for Windows' charms
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.