E Ink brings rich color to ePaper, but not to e-readers

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E Ink, maker of the ePaper displays found in many e-readers (maddening to have three different e prefixes in one sentence, but it’s unavoidable), announced a brand new type of reflective display that can show a huge range of colors — but the tech is only going to be deployed as signage for now.

Color reflective displays are nothing new, but none of the technologies touted over the years have been more than adequate. In person, color e-readers always seemed washed out, which is not good when your competition is glossy magazines and kids’ books.

E Ink’s Advanced Color ePaper produces 32,000 colors, and unlike some other electrophoretic displays, each pixel contains all the pigments necessary to make every color. That’s a major engineering challenge, much more so than a monochrome display. “Many materials and waveform inventions were required to independently control the position of the multiple color pigments,” read E Ink’s press release.

Diagram showing how the tiny colored pigments are wrangled to produce various hues.

Diagram showing how the tiny colored pigments are wrangled to produce various hues.

That improves resolution, contrast and general display quality — but right now the only panels E Ink has made are 20 inches diagonally and 2500×1600 pixels. The colors are still muted, too, as you can see in SlashGear’s eyes-on shots. Great for signage in stores, but at 150 pixels per inch, it wouldn’t stand up to close inspection — say, as an e-reader.

That said, early e-readers weren’t so hot resolution-wise or in terms of contrast, and they’ve come a great distance since. This is the first generation of the ACeP technology, and it’s the first color electrophoretic display with real promise. An E Ink representative indicated that it’s still in the R&D phase, and should be ready to manufacture within two years.

ACeP and plenty other fancy display solutions are currently being exhibited at Display Week in San Francisco.