Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

Summary: The Journal of the Society for Information Display published an article listing the top ten electronic paper devices that consumers can expect over the next 20 years.

TOPICS: Mobility

Over the next two decades, conventional print and static information displays will slip into the electronic realm as breakthroughs in e-paper technologies unfold.  Today's portable touchscreen devices and e-readers like the Kindle and Nook are paving the way for next-gen e-devices with magazine-quality color, viewable in bright sunlight, but requiring low power. They'll also be durable, flexible, and even contain video.

The Journal of the Society for Information Display recently published a paper (registration required) titled, "A Critical Review of the Present and Future Prospects for Electronic Paper" that lists the top ten electronic paper devices that consumers can expect over this time horizon that I reproduced below.

The University of Cincinnati's Jason Heikenfeld, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and an internationally recognized researcher in the field of electrofluidics, is the lead author.

2H 2011:

  • Color e-readers will be out in the consumer market by mid year in 2011. (Heads up, manufacturers are already bringing them to market).  However, cautions Heikenfeld, the color will be muted as compared to what consumers are accustomed to, say, on an iPad. Researchers will continue to work toward next-generation (brighter) color in e-Readers as well as high-speed functionality that will eventually allow for point-and-click web browsing and video on devices like the Kindle.

Already in use but expansive adoption and breakthroughs imminent:

  • Electronic shelf labels in grocery stores. Currently, it takes an employee the whole day to label the shelves in a grocery store. Imagine the cost savings if all such labels could be updated within seconds – allowing for, say, specials for one type of consumer who shops at 10 a.m. and updated specials for other shoppers stopping in at 5:30 p.m. Such electronic shelf labels are already in use in Europe and the West Coast and in limited, experimental use in other locales. The breakthrough for use of such electronic labels came when they could be implemented as low-power devices. Explained Heikenfeld, "The electronic labels basically only consume significant power when they are changed. When it's a set, static message and price, the e-shelf label is consuming such minimal power – thanks to reflective display technology – that it's highly economical and effective." The current e-shelf labels are monochrome, and researchers will keep busy to create high-color labels with low-power needs.

  • The new "no knobs" etch-a-sketch. This development allows children to draw with electronic ink and erase the whole screen with the push of a button. It was created based on technology developed in Ohio (Kent State University). Stated Heikenfeld, "Ohio institutions, namely the University of Cincinnati and Kent State, are international leaders in display and liquid optics technology."

  • Technology in hot-selling Glow Boards will soon come to signage. Crayola's Glow Board is partially based on UC technology developments, which Crayola then licensed. While the toy allows children to write on a surface that lights up, the technology has many applications, and consumers can expect to see those imminently. These include indoor and outdoor sign displays that when turned off, seem to be clear windows. (Current LCD – liquid crystal display – sign technology requires extremely high power usage, and when turned off, provide nothing more than a non-transparent black background.)

By 2013:

  • An e-device that will consume little power while also providing high function and color (video playing and web browsing) while also featuring good visibility in sunlight. Cautions Heikenfeld, "The color on this first-generation low-power, high-function e-device won't be as bright as what you get today from LCD (liquid crystal display) devices (like the iPad) that consume a lot of power. The color on the new low-power, high-function e-device will be about one third as bright as the color you commonly see on printed materials. Researchers, like those of us at UC, will continue to work to produce the Holy Grail of an e-device: bright color, high function (video and web browsing) with low power usage."

By 2014-2016:

  • Color adaptable e-device casings. The color and/or designed pattern of the plastic casing that encloses your cell phone will be adaptable. In other words, you'll be able to change the color of the phone itself to a professional black-and-white for work or to a bright and vivid color pattern for a social outing. "This is highly achievable," said Heikenfeld, adding, "It will be able to change color either automatically by reading the color of your outfit that day or by means of a downloaded app. It's possible because of low-power, reflective technology" (wherein the displayed pattern or color change is powered by available ambient light vs. powered by an electrical charge).

Expect the same feature to become available in devices like appliances. "Yes," said Heikenfeld, "We'll see a color-changing app, so that you can have significant portions of your appliances be one color one day and a different color or pattern the next."

  • Bright-color but low-power digital billboards visible both night and day. Currently, the digital billboards commonly seen are based on LEDs (liquid crystal displays), which consume high levels of electric power and still lose color when in direct sunlight. Heikenfeld explained, "We have the technology that would allow these digital billboards to operate by simply reflecting ambient light, just like conventional printed billboards do. That means low power usage and good visibility for the displays even in bright sunlight. However, the color doesn't really sizzle yet, and many advertisers using billboards will not tolerate a washed-out color."

  • Foldable or roll-it-up e-devices. Expect that the first-generation foldable e-devices will be monochrome. Color will come later. The first foldable e-devices will come from Polymer Vision in the Netherlands. Color is expected later, using licensed UC-developed technology. The challenge, according to Heikenfeld, in creating foldable e-devices has been the device screen, which is currently made of rigid glass. But what if the screen were a paper-thin plastic that rolled like a window shade? You'd have a device like an iPad that could be folded or rolled up tens of thousands of times. Just roll it up and stick it in your pocket. See a video.

By 2021-2031:

  • e-Devices with magazine-quality color, viewable in bright sunlight but requiring low power. "Think of this as the green iPad or e-Reader, combining high function and high color with low power requirements." said Heikenfeld.

  • The e-Sheet, a virtually indestructible e-device that will be as thin and as rollable as a rubber place mat. It will be full color and interactive, while requiring low power to operate since it will charge via sunlight and ambient room light. However, it will be so "tough" and only use wireless connection ports, such that you can leave it out over night in the rain. In fact, you'll be able to wash it or drop it without damaging the thin, highly flexible casing.

The future of e-paper looks colorful and pervasive as researchers work to overcome key challenges, such as bridging the gap between reflective electronic displays and print-on-paper.

Source: University of Cincinnati

Topic: Mobility

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  • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

    More ipad users won't use kindle for reading and as the expanding of tablet market more and more vendors will invest in tablet.

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    • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

      Amazon outselling Apple in eBooks 3 to 1. Get some facts before spewing.
      • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

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      • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

        They're sorta cheating, though, by still using LCDs rather than a color e-ink, which brings up concerns about sunlight glare. <a href="">Nation High School</a>
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  • Too bad there wasn't one called SPAM MY ASS

    That worked. (Make it in eColor if it helps)
  • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

    "Color e-reader"

    They're sorta cheating, though, by still using LCDs rather than a color e-ink, which brings up concerns about sunlight glare.

    "Electronic shelf labels"

    If they can get the price down low enough to make it feasible, and make it very reliable.

    "The new 'no knobs' etch-a-sketch"

    A product demo is not equivalent to it happening. Etch-a-sketches are meant to be a cheap toy for kids, not a gadget for techies. There are a lot more interesting applications for the tech than a kids' toy.

    "Foldable or roll-it-up e-devices."

    While this has a lot of "coolness" - I wonder if it's really gonna be any more useful than current devices.
    • RE: Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

      The foldable or roll-it-up devices offer some interesting situations, imho. A book that downloads the book, but remains a book-like experience might be enticing. Handouts in the classroom can be downloaded without clunky hardware, potentially one day.

      I don't know, I could like where this goes.
  • Wild Ideas

    The technologies of 2016- 2019 are really wild. Not sure about their business prospects. Hopefully it will be true..
    Hardik Upadhyay
  • The Last Book You'll Ever Need

    This is my tech dream. If someone builds this I will pay whatever you want for it:

    Christmas morning, this one's to you. Tearing the giftwrap off, you look at the small plain cardboard box you've uncovered. On the outside it says nothing but "The Book". In fact, it looks to be handwritten. Curious, you open it up. Inside is what looks to be the hardcover edition of your favorite author's latest book. Maybe 300 pages. Vivid color front and back. "Great! Thanks, honey! I've wanted to read this!" you tell your wife. She just smiles at you and says "Open it."

    You open it up and inside the cover is what looks to be the bright colors and exciting description of what you're about to read. But then you look closer... that's not an ordinary book jacket. It doesn't come off. And there's a small recessed button. "What in the world...?" you think to yourself. You press the button...

    This is no ordinary book. This is the only book you'll ever need.

    The inside cover transforms from book jacket to a vivid display you can see clearly even in your Florida sunroom, with a small touchscreen keyboard at the bottom, inviting you to "Choose a book". The display, to your amazement, scrolls slowly through every book your favorite author has ever written. A little animated finger shows up on the screen and appears to press a book selection, and when it does a message pops up saying "Press to choose a book." You choose one of your favorites.

    Instantly the cover of the Book changes to what you remember as the original full-color hardcover book jacket. The keyboard and list on the inside cover are gone, replaced with the bookjacket description just like you remember. Stunned, you start flipping through the pages and discover that the pages FEEL like, but aren't, dead trees. They're some kind of high tech, paper thin flexible electronic display, and when you chose your book they transformed into all the pages of the original paper book.

    You go on to discover that your Book connects to your wireless router and comes with a one year subscription to The Public Library - a massive collection of digital copies of hundreds of millions of books, magazines, newspapers, scientific journals, laws and court decisions, and government records. You have access to all of them. Your Book can search by author, title, genre, or you can just browse the digital shelves. When you browse, the Book transforms again and becomes a microcosm of the shelves; each page dedicated to one book. On each of those pages is a small picture of a book, a summary and some reviews. See something you like? Just say out loud "Load this one" Your Book transforms again. Flip through the pages and see if it catches your interest. Change your mind? Just say out loud "Put it back" and your Book turns back into the shelves and you can keep browsing.

    You pick a book on DNA. Flipping through it you can hardly believe your eyes. On page 205 is a full-color SPINNING strand of DNA! Not only do you hold nearly every book ever written in the palm of your hand, there are millions of pages of video content in the books on the shelves. Books on momentum and trajectory have pages with videos of catapults. Books on fixing your car have full page animations of disassembly and reassembly. Before and after diagrams are a thing of the past, replaced with pages that actually SHOW you how things get from point A to B.

    And your Book comes with a charging mat you can set on your desk or nightstand. Just set it on it for an hour once a month to charge it. Eyes not so good anymore? Make the text bigger if you need. Or plug in a pair of headphones and your Book will read to you in a voice of your choice. You can even highlight passages and make notes in the margins with the included electronic highlighter/pen, and your Book will save them for you for the next time you load that book. In a hurry or want to remember a lot? You can record up to 600 hours of audio notes.

    And of course you can connect it to your computer to load your own self-published works, pdf's and document files.

    Trees around the world will thank whoever builds this. :