The Amazon Kindle is probably the least gadget-y gadget ever created. No one ever exclaims about its remarkable specs. It doesn’t need upgrading every two years. You just pick it up, turn it on, and read. It’s always felt that way too, even when the Kindle had a keyboard and nineteen buttons and weighed four hundred pounds.
It’s the black and white E Ink display that really sets the tone. It’s slow and sort of awkward to tap around on, but it’s simple. It doesn’t shine brightly the way your phone does, keeping your spouse up at night. Eventually, you stop thinking about the Kindle as a screen altogether. It’s just a book.
Electronic paper, as that display tech is known (E Ink is a trademarked term owned by the company named E Ink, the tech’s leading purveyor), has always been associated primarily with the Kindle and its ilk. But e-paper is about to be much bigger than e-books. These durable, easy-to-read screens are taking over the world, from billboards to price tags to the walls of your house.
We’ve been imagining this future forever: the all-screen worlds of Total Recall, Minority Report, Blade Runner, and other less-dystopian movies. Researchers have spent decades working out how to turn walls, floors, ceilings, and facades into touchscreens. The only way that works is if those screens are rugged as hell, don’t need much power, and can be used and seen in absolutely any conditions. Only one display technology checks all those boxes. Sooner than you think, e-paper is going to be everywhere. You might not even notice it’s there, and that’s the point.
Before we get too far, here’s a quick primer: An e-paper display is filled with really tiny ink capsules, which have electric charges. Some of the ink in each capsule is white, some is black. Using electrical fields, the display rearranges the ink to show different things on the screen. (When you turn the page on a Kindle, the resulting flash is just the ink rearranging itself.) That rearranging takes a very small amount of power, but when it’s done, it shuts off. Keeping an image on the screen doesn’t require any power at all.
An e-paper display obviously can’t do everything an LCD or OLED can. Those technologies are more colorful and vibrant. They refresh faster, and they’re much more responsive to touch—there’s no chance you’ll be buying an E Ink smartphone or television anytime soon. But not everything needs all that pizzaz, which is why gadgets of all shapes and sizes are already adopting e-paper screens. It’s all over the wearables industry, for one: the Pebble Time, the Withings Go fitness tracker, the Sony SmartBand Talk, the flexible new Polyera Wove Band. One of Timex’s high-end GPS watches has a color E Ink screen, using a technology called Mirasol. For these and other wearables, long battery life is much more important than tack-sharp resolutions and crispy colors.
Source: Electronic Ink Will Be Everywhere in the Future | WIRED