Display 2008: The e-paper you can doodle on

New, powerful chips create a paper-like experience

One of the more low-key exhibits at the Display 2008 show in Tokyo is a new kind of e-paper that promises an electronic experience far closer to real paper than anything we’ve seen before.

The result of a collaboration between Seiko Epson and E Ink is e-paper that a user can ‘draw on’ with a stylus, just like its tree-based predecessors. In addition, a super-fast screen refresh of 50 cycles per second removes the lags that plague older e-papers.

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Controller chip in charge

At the heart of the breakthrough is a new controller chip that allows for speedy, multiple operations with no delay on screens with a resolution up to 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. The chip will be available to device builders from August.

The demonstration we saw was certainly impressive – the screen responded to being scribbled on instantly, resulting in an experience a lot like making notes with a pencil on a book or newspaper.

Future possibilities

Looking to the possible applications of the new e-paper, E Ink’s CEO Russ Wilcox said, "With the ability to address many screen regions simultaneously, future devices using this chip could offer a fast menu interface, simple animations, higher greyscale levels and user input through typing and touch."

In other words, we’re likely to see Potter-esque moving newspapers that we can doodle on to our hearts’ content before long. Rumours of a flying broomstick from the two companies have yet to be confirmed.