A big leap forward for in-store displays.

Interactive displays are a core competency for us at bloomfield knoble, inc. We were one of the first groups in the United States to work with E Ink and have, for years, promoted the use of electrophoretic (the e-ink technology) as an option for in-store displays. One of the biggest challenges, however, has always been that e-ink is most functional in black-and-white. I’m not sure that anybody cares that e-ink is mostly black-and-white. The technology has done just fine without capitalizing on the display market – almost every economical e-reader utilizes this technology, but with the rise of LCDs, many people – and display technology groups – have moved away from e-ink.

According to Duncan Graham-Rowe, writing in New Scientist, Naoki Hiji of Fuji Xerox in Kaisei, Japan, and colleagues have built a prototype system that uses tiny fluid-filled cells containing cyan, magenta, yellow and white particles to produce almost any color. Black-and-white e-ink displays work by having negatively charged black particles and positively charged white particles suspended in fluid inside a cell. Apply a negative electrical field to the cell, and white particles move to the top and become visible; flip the current, and black shows up.

Hiji’s display uses the same principle, but each color particle responds to a certain intensity of electrical field, while the white particles are uncharged. Color e-ink is nothing new, but one typical approach, which involves simply placing a red, green or blue filter in front of each cell, means that three cells need to be combined to produce most colors, resulting ini low resolution. Other techniques are criticized for creating washed-out colors that can’t compete with the brightness of LCD screens. Hiji says his team’s device achieves a resolution of 300 dots per inch on par with LCD, “but under sunlight, our technology can provide superior quality to LCD,” he says. And like all electrophoretic displays, it uses very little power, increasing battery life.

E Ink, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company that provides the technology behind the Amazon and Sony e-reader displays, uses the filter approach for its Triton displays. Color readers will always be niche, says Sriram Peruvemba of E Ink. “Most long-form reading is done in black and white. I have yet to see people preferring to read orange on blue or cyan on magenta.” That may be true, but in display advertising, it’s precisely that type of pop of color that can make a big difference.

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