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Displays Technology

Looking For E-Ink Applications Beyond Ebook Readers 161

An anonymous reader writes "When MIT's Media Lab originally came up with E-Ink back in 1997, we doubt they expected the technology to be this widely popular. Today, we see E-Ink's applications take a step further than just E-book readers. From streaming videos onto your wardrobe to camouflaging tanks, various companies have been experimenting with the technology to discover its next big adoption."
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Looking For E-Ink Applications Beyond Ebook Readers

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  • e-ink tattoos (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Snotman ( 767894 )

    Then you could send messages to people via your tattoo like "Screw off!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by NeuroKoan ( 12458 )


    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      Why so negative, e-ink tattoos would be great when you have to change the name of your ex to your new girlfriend!

  • I've seen exactly one use of e-ink in the wild: ebooks.

    We were hearing about color versions, video-speed versions, and wrappable versions five years ago. What can I buy? A monochrome Kindle with refresh so slow it make a man want to buy you another refresh.
    • You can already buy color e-ink books, the prolem is that they aren't very good. They're color, but they're color sort of the same way that the Gameboy Color was, as in you do get colors, but they're somewhat faint and quite limited in the colors that can be displayed.

      In the future though, I could totally see the technology being used for boardgames and billboards, almost certainly for bus schedules. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point we ended up with something similar to the Hitchhikers guide.

      • The only problem with the GBC's screen was that unless you had really good lighting (like a flourescent lamp or an addon LED light) the screen looked dark, but there are many good high-color games that look about on par with a 256-color PC game. You might be thinking of the "additional color support" games that worked on the old monochrome Game Boy and also offered a limited palette of colors on the GBC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Game boards is actually a very good idea. You could have a complete board made out of e-Ink that changes the game display based on which game you want to display. Couple that with a touch interface and you instantly have an electronic customizable board for playing Risk, Monopoly, Scabble, etc. You could either play games electronically or just use it display the board and have physical playing pieces. Not only that, but when a new game came out you would just have to buy the pieces and download the boa

    • I've seen exactly one use of e-ink in the wild: ebooks.

      We were hearing about color versions, video-speed versions, and wrappable versions five years ago. What can I buy? A monochrome Kindle with refresh so slow it make a man want to buy you another refresh.

      To be fair, the last two generations of Kindle have decent refresh speeds - and very nice displays overall... for book reading. But your overall point is spot-on.

      We need Avery Brooks to make a new commercial - "Where are my color e-ink displays? I was promised color e-ink displays!"

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:25PM (#37704492)

        Hey, I like the Kindle. It's dirt cheap. The display doesn't give me a headache. And it's small, light, and simple.

        Yeah, I'm disappointed that we haven't seen more of the promises delivered on too. But there is no need to run down the Kindle. It delivers on exactly what it promises and does it cheaply and well.

        • It wasn't my intent to "run down the Kindle", nor do I think it was the grandparent's intent. I believe he was lamenting the sad lack of progress towards the promises that had been made regarding this technology.

          FWIW I own a Kindle 3 and think it's great.

        • by mark-t ( 151149 )
          The kindle display doesn't give me a headache either, but waiting for the screen to refresh does. I still prefer using real books, where I can see the contents of a page the instant I open the book to that page, and can quickly leaf through pages to visually find something that I might be looking for (painfully slow to do on the kindle), sometimes even more quickly than looking it up in an index.
      • I convert guitar tab to PDF using tuxguitar output to lilypond, and it looks great. Usually I start with stuff I found online, and fix it as I learn the song.

        I can't think of a better, easier way to put piles of music in a single place. Between things like Mutopia and the PDF export of most music programs, any musician would be silly not to get one.

        Warning: Dont rely on one during an audition - I've seen more than 1 piano player not able to reach the 'next page' button in time!

        But I generally agree, e-ink

        • Actually, in 2-up form (built into the stand?), e-Ink would be a flawless solution for sheet music. If the sheets for an entire orchestra were laid out so the page breaks occurred at exactly the same place for everyone, the flipping could be automated by an offstage assistant so that page 1 would automatically become page 3 a few seconds after page 2 became the current page (and so on). Make them waterproof and bolted on to lyres, and you have the perfect solution for marching bands. Short of star trek-styl

    • Re:Widely popular? (Score:4, Informative)

      by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:16PM (#37704358) Homepage Journal

      I've seen exactly one use of e-ink in the wild: ebooks.

      Actually, a pretty cool use I've seen is a little capacity meter on USB thumb drives: []

      My wife (of all people) has one of these things, I thought it was pretty neat.

    • by Forbman ( 794277 )

      There have been a few quasi-smart phones with keypad buttons that had eInk in them - the icon in the key (letter, symbol, whatnot) could change depending on the context... It seemed kind of cool, actually.

    • I have several copies of the issue of Esquire with the e-ink cover and Ford Flex ad. They were simple, segmented displays but very durable and bendy. I left one in the trunk of my car where it got smashed by groceries and luggage, baked/frozen by weather, etc. and it worked perfectly until the batteries ran out. Refresh speeds are getting better but, honestly, aren't particularly relevant to "reader" type applications. I'm not a speed reader so it takes me a minute or two to finish a page and I can live

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Car dashboards!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    E-Ink was actually invented in the 1970's by Nick Sheridon at Xerox PARC. MIT Media Labs simply tried to recreate it (and later altered how it was originally done).

  • Considering how massively hyped it was at the time. I am pretty sure that they would be surprised that it is not being used in even more ways than it is currently. I remember the inventors talking about how it was going to change the way everything was displayed. They suggested that magazines would be published in it and the ads would change depending on where you bought/read the magazine (they never quite explained how the information about the contents for the new ad would get into the magazine). This is not the same as changes on an e-reader. They imagined this for disposable magazines they you would throw away when you were done with them.
    • Marketers will market and pontificators will pontificate. Plenty of tech gets pumped, big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

  • by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:10PM (#37704284) Journal

    What I really want is a large e-ink display with a foot switch, so I can stop dicking around with sheet music and frantic page turns.

    • Agreed on the bigger ... but I want even larger than that. I absolutely *loathe* the LED message signs that it seems every church / school / bank / shopping center has these days.

      But I want to put something in front of our Town Hall that we can change the messages on easily, and looks a little classier than the old school swap out the letters ones ... An indoor large sign was actually one of their first products (mentioned in a Economist article from 2000 [])

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

        I agree here. Some of the color LED signs are hard to read, while some of the monochromatic tend to be just plain obnoxious.

        e-Ink on that large a scale can bring about a number of nice things:

        1: For business parks, it wouldn't be hard to change the logos of businesses there on their main signs.

        2: It would be trivial for billboard companies to change signs.

        3: Stadium signs with team logos instead of "Home and Visitor".

        4: Traffic signs that don't require constant upkeep or mechanical sliding/flipping par

        • 10. Wallpaper/paint. We're thinking of repainting the living room at the moment and just trying to pick a colour. As I sure everyone is aware not only is this a non-trivial amount of work, even with tester pots you can never be sure what the final result will look like until you've finished.

          With full colour E-Ink you could pick a different shade or pattern at the press of a few buttons and change it every day (or have it constantly changing if you wanted).

      • You know what's really dumb? Signs lit up in blue. Either LED ones or just plain corporate logos lit in blue. They're utterly impossible to read at night; they just look like a big blur.

        • You get that too? I thought the chromatic aberration was just a flaw in my eyes. Does everyone have problems focusing blue?
        • They're utterly impossible to read at night; they just look like a big blur.

          Do you mean the new police car LED light bars that are designed to blind oncoming traffic and increase revenue for 'driving off a cliff' citations?

          • No, I actually haven't seen those. I guess the police in my town don't have the funds for those, though I see flashing blue lights just about every time I go out it seems.

            I'm just talking about signs. We have some corporate buildings around here (Phoenix, AZ) with big blue signs on the side, and I honestly can't read them at all at night to see what business they're trying to promote, they're just too blurry.

      • I believe they produce eInk displays in really large sizes and cut them up later, so there's no reason you couldn't purchase such a display. Of course, you'd have to write your own controller to drive it.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      sounds like you need to have a larger note buffer. that way you can leisurely turn the page because you have the next 15 notes in your pipeline already.

      • IDK what instrument he's using, but for most the problem is that it takes two hands to play. Leaves very few hands (1) to change pages. Hence, he wants a foot switch.
    • Scientists have been after a larger e-ink display for reading journal articles on for a while. It doesn't have to be colour, it just needs to be big enough for an A4 .pdf to be readable on it (and the figures too!).
  • is awkward to pronounce. The two phonemes require an aspired stop, and it doesn't roll off the tongue nicely, unless you say eeeeenk (like Ren Hoek) instead of the stuttering Eee-Eeenk.

  • I know that there have been phones created using e-ink as the primary display. Much more of just a phone type cell phone rather than a smart phone. There are also some e-ink watches which makes a lot of sense too. I can always hope flexible e-ink displays get better so that the foldable e-ink phone/reader comes out, like this: readius []
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:23PM (#37704462)

    If it can't be used to enhance my porn experience then it's totally useless.

    • It might not help with your porn experience (though i displays manga fine, which should carry over to all genres thereof), but it might make you look smarter, and you might quite possibly get the real thing one day.

  • If you are reading, maybe you can tolerate full second rendering delays. You arent going to use this for a video game in this form.
    • by yotto ( 590067 )

      I also wouldn't use a sandwich to play a video game. Doesn't mean sandwiches don't have a place in my life.

    • You are faced with the Dastardly Delay of the Doom. In your pocket, you have a bookmark, a marker, and Everyday Man’s Flame Thrower .
      If you decide to bookmark the page and come back later, turn to page 3.
      If you decide to cross out all the words with the marker, turn to page 4.
      If you decide to use Everyday Man’s Flame Thrower, turn to page 2353.
      If you decide to do nothing and carry on, turn to page 1 and try the route left.

      By the way, I also recall playing 'The Manhole' on a mac... and
    • It doesn't take a full second for a page refresh. I appreciate you trying to make a point, but don't embellish facts to help yourself.

    • And besides, how many milliseconds exactly does it take you to flip a physical page, reposition your hold of the book, crack the spine so that you can see the center of the page better, etc?

      I was on the subway today and was watching a guy reading a paper book and waiting for a lull in the train's motion before risking letting go of the hand rail to change the page. All the people next to him with eInk readers were happily changing their pages.

      And how much time and energy are you wasting trying to prevent w

  • CRTs had maxed out; projection TVs and plasmas cost a fortune. But the world moved on to other screen technologies for the 50-foot screens you see in billboards and sports stadiums.
  • e Ink table top for boardrooms.
    e ink large format display for CAD drawings. E size paper please and able to roll it up.
    e ink 32" and 42" displays for digital signage.

  • For a while there I thought LCD screens would be "almost free" having migrated into $7 cellphones and disposable cameras. But not quite cheap enough to put screens on cereal boxes like in the Minority Report movie. Given "Moore's Law" possibly somethime this century.
  • E-ink displays could be quite useful, if the module could be made cheap enough, in certain sorts of logistical applications...

    Since you only pay a power cost when you change them, and static display costs nothing, things like shelf price tags that last ages on tiny batteries should be quite doable. a desktop/laptop equivalent to the small LCD status displays that servers have(usually switching between hostname/uptime/fault conditions/etc.) would make life easier as well. Having to boot a machine in stora
    • static display costs nothing, things like shelf price tags that last ages on tiny batteries should be quite doable

      IIRC, JC Penney did a field test of this back c. 2002. e.Ink shelf tags, small wireless transmitter (pager tech?) In the central office, they updated a price in a mainframe, and a few minutes later the shelf tags updated.

      No word on whether they did this during the day to purposely drive shoppers insane.

      I don't know how it turned out, but I suspect it was too expensive then. Today, with cheap

  • One of the problems the eInk people had was that they completely constrained the market via hideously expensive development kits and a poor selection of screens. Only 1-2, low-resolution, nowhere-near-A4-or-US-Letter screens have been available. The only exception are 2-3 large-format readers like the Kindle DX and the Iliad Digital Reader 1000 (which was a miserable failure, in part because they lied through their teeth about the specs, especially battery life, which was miserable...a few hours at best,
  • by Deltaspectre ( 796409 ) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:49PM (#37704826)

    A good e-ink calendar would be the killer app for me. It would be wesome if I could programmatically enter events and on the fly switch between Month/Week/Agenda type views. I could do this with an iPad I guess, but I would prefer a dedicated large picture frame type device that I can hang above my desk with low power consumption.

    • I like this idea, also an analog e-ink wrist watch (by analog I mean displaying two hands on a dial) with the ability to show alerts from a connected phone & unlock that phone would be cool. Of course an optimus style e-ink keyboard would be awesome. For all these simple uses I think higher contrast ratios would be more important than color or refresh improvements. Full color e-ink could revolutionize photo frames and still not need refresh improvements.

      What could we do with an e-ink display with cur

    • 2nded

      I could use that TODAY, both home & work.

  • I was thinking that maybe an eink screen could be used for proofing graphics and photos before printing. I'm guessing the reflective screen would look closer to what it would on paper than what it would look on an LCD screen.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Except for the crappy colour.

      A calibrated and properly adjusted LCD does a much better job.

  • You could adjust the tint on your windows with a dimmer switch to let more/less light in.
  • I'm still waiting for decent kindle apps!

    Is there a reason why Amazon doesn't allow an Inform interpreter? That would be the perfect device for IF! (Or the other way round: finally interactive fiction found its medium)

  • Folks look at the way invention works. Someone creates something. Someone else screws with it and discovers and interesting property. Someone else has a problem, starts hunting for a technology that might solve his problem and POOF!!! a new use emerges. Look at all the things that have mushroomed into complete industries, hell, armies of industries. The laser. What the hell could coherent light be used for? It was a physics experiment. It's probably also the defining technology of the 20th century, responsi

  • I would like a plain old monitor with e-ink, that I could hook up to my computer like any other. I am aware of the limitations but it would be great for certain applications.


  • I was thinking it would be good as an indicator of whether a device is on or off, instead of a red light to indicate "standby" mode,
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:19PM (#37709064) Journal

    The tags show low prices when on the shelf, but when brought near the register they increase. You use the same technology on the shelf price labels so if someone comes running back with an increased item to check, they show the high price.

  • All I want are inexpensive e-ink displays. There are a lot of things I would like to do, but the ones I've found so far are small and expensive.

  • The thing is, the display method is known now, but if you want to export something to an eink display, is it true to say that whatever you are using to export to it is not standard, so usually you have to include a small computer.

    Still no eink display on a mobile phone yet.... what does that say about it? (I'd like to fit a eink screen to a phone...)

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall