January 12, 2010

LiquaVista shows color ePaper displays! Mirasol, PixelQi....Fight!

Another "dark horse" display technology shows up at CES, to avoid letting Mirasol steal the show!  

Innovation is alive and well in display technologies!

From Engadget coverage at:

LiquaVista looked a very promising reflective, bi-stable display technology with promising color performance, reflectivity levels and refresh speed. But after introducing small, segmented, single-color displays they went quiet for a long time.

I thought they were never going to make it to larger matrix displays, so it's a pleasure to see them back and competing with Mirasol, and maybe PixelQi, for the color eReader display technology crown.

At CES they were showing the current status of their technology in demonstration form. It seems they are still over a year away from production.

I expect this Phillips spin-off will be busy working with the other eReader-related Phillips spin-off (iRex) to bring us a color eReader device. 

They not only share the company heritage, but residence at the Phillips technology campus in Eindhoven. So being only a short-walk away should make for some "fluid" collaboration I hope and some great-looking, fast-update, video-capable, low-power eReader and other devices in the coming years.

In the video the company employees state that they expect to see reflectivity levels of 52% and contrast ratios of 22:1 (both very good values) when in production. It seems that that refers to the monochrome version, and they use RGBW (W = White) color filters on top of the monochrome to give the color display, which will have lower reflectivity levels (I think I hear 15% in the video).

NOTE: In the Engadget video you hear these numbers when the camera is focused on the color display, but I'm pretty sure the speaker is referring to the monochrome display beside it, out of camera.

The different options they are introducing are:

LiquaVista Bright
"high performance monochrome reflective displays with video capability..."
Reflective, 64 greyscale levels, fast refresh of all or areas of the display, giving you something akin to current monochrome (E-Ink like) eReaders, but with (monochrome) animation and video capability while still having low power consumption. The fast refresh can be used for interactivity and effects (e.g. page turning etc) while reading static pages, or to have parts of a page active with a video or animation, or to have the entire display with video.

LiquaVista Color
"high performance full color video reflective displays"
This is basically the monochrome LiquaVista Bright display with an RGBW placed on top of it to produce a color display, the same way RGB filters are placed on top of backlit LCD displays, which are inherently monochrome, to produce the color LCD display you're probably reading this on.
Due to the filter, to get a white area you have to switch-on R+G+B+W pixels. But the R,G,B don't reflect as much light as the W pixel does. So the overall reflectivity is much lower than a monochrome display - where basically all pixels are W (and when "off" they show black). Black density maybe closer to the monochrome display. Overall, contrast ratios will be lower too (same Black, not-so-bright White).

We need to see a side-by-side in controlled lighting condition with the Mirasol display, to have an interesting compare!

LiquaVista Vivid
Last, but not least, we have "Vivid".
"High performance dual-mode transflective displays..."
As mentioned, this display can be used in either a reflective monochrome mode (very low or zero power) or a "Field-Sequential Color illumination" mode, where the display is back-lit cycling though R then G then B backlights (very fast). 
The downside is the power consumed by the backlights. But due to much better transmisivity of the light from the backlight compared to an LCD display (no polarizers etc) the backlight can be of a MUCH lower power than in an LCD, compensating somewhat.
We will have to wait to see power consumption numbers for this mode though. 

A bit like the PixelQi display the dual-mode allows you to switch and chose between ultra-low-power monochrome reflective, and higher power transmissive color depending on the type of content and interaction you desire.

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