E Ink Holdings, the company that developed the concept of electronic paper and the technology used for e-ink screens on dedicated e-readers, has developed E Ink Mobius, a new version of the technology that is more flexible, lighter and more durable than previous e-ink screens. The screen was developed in conjunction with Sony which plans to use it on a new line of e-readers to be released in 2014, in addition to using it on screens used for other kinds of consumer products coming out this year.
E Ink is working with Sony to develop a large-screen display e-reader for the education market, according to Giovanni Mancini, director of product management for E Ink Holdings, in a phone interview with PW. Mancini said the new device is called the Sony 13.3 e-reader and that it is “an extremely thin e-reader about the size of a sheet of 8 ½ x 11 paper. Sony has developed a prototype and is working with a Japanese university to create a commercial product for use in the classroom.” The device is designed specifically for classroom curriculum materials; it has a 1200 x 1600 screen resolution (16 level grayscale) and also features handwriting recognition that allows users to make normal notes right on the screen as if it were paper.
Mancini said the device is like a “virtual printer” that allows you to download and display all kinds of documents at their original size for easy viewing. While other manufacturers have attempted to produce “flexible” displays, Mancini said the critical issue is not whether the screen can be folded, or rolled into a cylinder, but rather the need for light and durable materials that will consume less power than the conventional backlit screens on phones and tablets. E ink has developed the E Ink Mobius screen technology, Mancini said, while Sony has created the devices’ electronics. He emphasized that the issue of weight and durability is even more important in mobile computing devices.
While E Ink has an exclusive arrangement with Sony, Mancini said “we are free to provide samples to anyone interested and our exclusive agreement is over after a year.” Mancini also noted the E Ink Mobius is being used in several new devices including the Yota Phone, a Russian smartphone that features two screens--on one side there’s a typical full color backlit LCD screen, best used for games or watching video, and on the other side a black and white E Ink Mobius screen that lets the user more easily read e-books and prose easily without draining batteries. The E Ink Mobius Flex technology, he said, is also being used in a variety of industrial devices and signage and he noted the E Ink Spectra, a three pigment electric paper display device that displays in black, white and red. The device can be used for in store electronic signage that changes constantly with new sales and promotions.
“We’ve been very successful with e-readers,” Mancini said, “but many new products using this technology are coming to market.”