The first e-book reader with a screen that combines the advantages of e-ink with the ability to display interactive content has been unveiled in Korea, paving the way for such devices to become widely available in the future.
The Kyobo device is based on Qualcomm's Mirasol technology, which in this case delivers an e-book reader with a 5.7in 1,024x768 screen that can display in colour, yet still offers a battery life of several weeks' worth of reading, according to the maker.
Until now, e-reader vendors have been faced with a choice of e-ink displays or more conventional LCD screens to build into their devices.
While LCD can provide full colour, it requires a backlight that eats up battery power - hence the screen going dark on your phone after a period of inactivity.
Meanwhile, e-ink displays do not require battery power to hold an image and have high contrast in ambient light, making them suitable for reading purposes. However, the screen is slow to update and current models offer only a monochrome display.
Qualcomm's Mirasol screens use a technology called interferometric modulator display, which produces pixels using the combination of a reflective microscopic mirror and a thin film stack that can be flipped into one of two states to allow light through or block it.
The result is a display technology that can show colour, by combining pixels tuned to reflect red, green or blue light, and one which can potentially change state quickly enough to show video content. Qualcomm has already demonstrated a prototype that can handle 30 frames per second, for example.
While the Kyobo e-reader appears to be aimed at the Korean domestic market, it points the way to colour e-readers that should be widely available in the near future, while the Mirasol technology might eventually find its way into other devices such as smartphones.
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