The Kindle, Cool-er, Bebook, iRiver Story and Sony Readers all have one thing in common - E-ink. The black and white, easy to read, no frills technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper, but doesn't refresh fast enough to produce video.
Qualcomm wants to treat our eye balls to a sight more luxurious and if the chipset churning company gets its way, the future of ereaders is about to get very bright and colouful, with plenty of movement. Yep, Qualcomm is readying its own energy efficient, colorful, video-capable, fast and pocket friendly display, known as Mirasol, which you can take a peek at in a video below.
And to allay the fears of the more cynical amongst you, yes, we've been teased with colour and video capable eReaders before from the likes of Packard bell, Asus and Cool-er, but to no avail. However, we can confirm there is a new generation of display technology patiently waiting to bring full colour, video, multimedia and touchscreen capabilities to ereaders. Who knows, Mirasol might even turn up in current and future hardware from the likes of Amazon, BeBook and Sony et al.
Mirasol promises to combine colour, speedy refresh rates and low power consumption and based on the short time we spent with it, we were impressed with how clear and vivid the images were, not to mention easy on the eye. Its refresh rate was indeed speedy, moving images were smooth and it got us to thinking about the possibilities of reading digital copies of your favourite magazine, like Stuff (natch). Being able to touch, pan, zoom and scroll on an ereader with long battery life would be a truly enjoyable experience.
Qualcomm’s Mirasol display is based on a reflective technology called IMOD (interferometric MODulation), that's based on the natural principle that makes butterfly wings shimmer. This means it only uses the natural light of its surroundings to create colour, without the assistance of colour filters or other external light sources. As a result, no backlight is required, so it uses less power than current E-ink based ereaders, and the display is a lot easier to read in direct sunlight. We even took it outside to attest those claims (which you will see in the video) and I was suitably impressed with the quality of the display, despite the sun shining directly onto the screen. The more light, the crisper the images appeared.
The current prototypes are 5.7-inches and will be available at the end of year. There were no hints about which manufacturers will be snapping up this new technology, though. My investigating proved unsuccessful and Qualcomm's marketing director, Cheryl Goodman told me it's all very top secret at the moment and she would have to kill me if she revealed anything.
So I bet you're wondering what a colour, low-power Mirasol display looks like, right? Aren't you lucky we managed to bag some video, with a bit of commentary from the ever effervescent, Cheryl Goodman. Check it out.
If Qualcomm can deliver on its promise to kit ereaders with colour touchscreens and video capabilities, the eReader market is about to get significantly more exciting. Heck, I may even buy one. We may even see it in mobile phones and tablets in the future. Watch this space