E Ink’s new Triton line give the company’s displays a long-desired new feature: color. Most of the E Ink team is in Japan this week, demonstrating their new screens in Hanvon’s new e-reader. I spoke by phone with E Ink’s Lawrence Schwartz, who broke down the technology behind the new screens, Triton’s importance for his company, and where their displays fit into the broader ecosystem of readable screens.
“All of our screens have been building towards this,” Schwartz said. “The contrast and brightness we were able to add to the Pearl’s black-and-white screens, paired with a color filter — that’s what lets us bring color to the display.”
Schwartz emphasized that the company’s primary focus is still developing low-power, high-contrast surfaces for reading. “What’s unique about color in reading,” he added, “is that while most textual content is still in monochrome, we can introduce color into cover art, children’s books, newspapers, and textbooks — places still in the reading field where color is at a premium.”
E Ink developed the Triton screen in conjunction with a group of partners, including Epson, Texas Instruments, Marvell, and the semiconductor companies Maxim and Freescale, all of whom worked on the electronic components of the Pearl screen. In particular, Epson played a key role, providing the color filters’ controller chip.
Underneath, it’s still the same white, black and grayscale electrophoretic pigments; it’s only when filtered through the RGB overlay that the image appears in color. To reach for an historical analogy, it’s not totally dissimilar from film’s Technicolor process, which shot in black-and-white film strips through color filters, then reverse-processed.
Because the underlying technology is identical, Triton’s contrast, energy usage, viewing angle are all essentially the same as the Pearl. The image update or refresh rate for monochrome is the same (240 ms), but color animation can take up to about one full second.
Unlike a LCD display, though, pictures on the Triton don’t need to update the entire screen: a moving figure in the foreground might be refreshed while the background remains identical — just like traditional cel animation.
E-readers are the high-profile example of E Ink in action, but the company’s screens are also used in watches, battery indicators, printers, calculators, signage, end-cap displays in stores and a wide range of industrial displays. All of these displays, Schwartz said, could benefit from the introduction of color. And in the vast majority of these use cases, LCD or other full-video displays simply aren’t feasible, either for reasons of power conservation or the inherently limited nature of what’s being shown.
While Hanvon is the first company bringing the Triton screen to market, Schwartz said E Ink had other customers working with Triton screen technology who haven’t yet made announcements about their forthcoming products. Otherwise, he couldn’t comment on future devices or availability.
The most exciting innovations, Schwartz said, were the experimentations with user interface in conjunction with E Ink screens, whether using multitouch, stylus, or other NUI. E Ink, he said, works to optimize each of its displays for every one of these interfaces, which has required the company to be increasingly flexible in how it thinks about its products.
In the meantime, E Ink’s goal is to continue to improve their existing product line: get higher contrast, brighter colors, faster screen refreshes, and continue to find better ways to optimize their screens for every interface, use case and use environment.
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Fuente: Gadget Lab