e-ink display in rough outdoor usage scenario, image source: http://www.eink.com
Since the first commercial appearance of e-Ink Displays around the year 2008, a large collection of cheap e-book readers, such as the Sony PRS505 or Amazon’s Kindle, were successfully introduced on the consumer market. As the e-Ink technology became mature in this field of application, millions of e-book readers are in active use today and the amount of sold e-books is nearly the same level as of traditional books.
E-Ink technology was first mentioned in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab. Joseph Jacobson and Barrett Comiskey are listed as inventors on the original patent filed in 1996.
E-Ink displays offer some great advantages over alternative display technology, such as extremely low power usage, incredible high contrast and the ability to preserve the static image for an unlimited amount of time without the use of any energy at all. E-Ink displays on the other hand do not offer much multimedia capabilities as they are mostly operating on grayscale, or very simple single color modes. Also their slow reaction times prevent e-Ink displays to show any videos.
Beside the widespread use of e-Ink displays in e-Ink ebook (or even as prototypical Smartphone display) reading devices, their use within industrial applications and rough production or outdoor scenarios is still underestimated. As e-Ink displays offer perfect contrast and preserve the displayed image over an unlimited amount of time, these displays could be the perfect choice for machine interfaces.
Following examples show the use of e-Ink displays in various interesting applications, such as static information on pillboxes, showing information directly on a mountain bike or even to directly show information on a snowboard.
e-Ink display on a pill box, image source: http://www.eink.com
e-ink display on a snowboard: image source: http://www.eink.com
Watch a short film explaining the basic concepts of e-Ink technology:
In his interesting TED talk on ‘The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology’, Pranav Mistry shows several self built hardware tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data. He also discusses his SixthSense device and a new, paradigm-shifting paper laptop in detail. He says that he’ll open-source the software behind SixthSense, to open its possibilities to all.
This reminds me a lot on Prof. Hiroshi Ishii’s ‘Tangible User Interfaces‘, (Tangible Media Group) research group at MIT, who’s work i really admire since my studies at the university. The Tangible User Interface group continuously publish great work on the challenge how to build tangible real world interfaces to interfere with digital artefacts. They combine art, media and technology to invent great interfaces!
screenshot taken from http://tangible.media.mit.edu
Oblong industries is showing a nice little demonstration where they show a 3D operating system with motion-based interaction design. We have all seen this interaction design before in Minority Report :), but this one comes quite near to the interaction design shown by Minority Report. You will need quite a large office to work with this system, but i am sure this interaction design could be combined with Google’s glass project, which really would be a cool device!