Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Displays Android Power Hardware

Qualcomm's Butterfly Wing Display Gets Nearer 168

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the stare-at-the-sun dept.
holy_calamity writes "Technology Review has an update on a screen technology from Qualcomm called Mirasol that delivers LCD-like colors and video but sips power like e-ink. Demonstration Android tablets with 5.7 inch Mirasol displays apparently held up well in bright light and were responsive enough for gaming. Qualcomm are in the process of building a $1 billion new factory to make the screens, which should appear in devices from phone and tablet makers next year."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Qualcomm's Butterfly Wing Display Gets Nearer

Comments Filter:
  • Soon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:21PM (#38068114)

    Between this and a couple of other low power passive displays working their way to market, one of them is going to succeed. And change everything.

    The display is one of the biggest power hogs right now. The radios in cell phones are also pretty hungry but having an always on display will be game changing. Then when you consider the work on various memory techs that eliminate idle current and the lifetime issues with flash, things are going to continue to be very interesting in the tech world.

    • Re:Soon (Score:5, Funny)

      by penguinstorm (575341) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:33PM (#38068230) Homepage

      Shit. I thought we already changed everything. I'm not buying anything else until we stop changing things!

    • by peragrin (659227)

      i have been waiting for a mirasol or pixi q tablet for 6 years when I first heard of the displays. I am tired of waiting and waiting and waiting. Just put out a decent device with the display and you will sell enough to pay for that building.

      • I have been waiting for a mirasol or pixi q tablet for 6 years when I first heard of the displays. I am tired of waiting and waiting and waiting. Just put out a decent device with the display and you will sell enough to pay for that building.

        Is there something wrong with the Pixel Qi model of the Notion Ink Adam?

        • Re:Soon (Score:4, Funny)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:44PM (#38068946) Journal
          Other than the fact that somebody attached it to a Notion Ink Adam, not really...
        • Is there something wrong with the Pixel Qi model of the Notion Ink Adam?

          I've never seen them IRL. But I've been following them through youtube videos, and the problem with Pixel Qi is that under sunlight it only looks good for laptops, but not for tablets. The touchscreen technology requires a reflective glass layer that negates almost all the benefits of the Qi display.

    • Re:Soon (Score:5, Interesting)

      by somersault (912633) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:49PM (#38068354) Homepage Journal

      Indeed.. 30fps from a colour e-ink display. I can hardly imagine how strange it would be watching a video on one of these things.

      This is the beginning of the end of printed magazines, now that people can't complain about eye strain from backlights. It will also be damn cool to be able to do real "living photos" without a backlit display.

      Modifiable tattoos is another fun use that they're already doing with monochrome e-ink - being able to have them in colour that doesn't fade would be awesome too. The whole reason I haven't got a tattoo so far is that I know I'd probably want to change the design at some point.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        The applications are indeed very far reaching... from having things that look like full motion paintings (think "Harry Potter"), to changing the pattern on the wallpaper in your house, to changing the colors of the clothes that you are wearing, all at a push of a button.
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Indeed.. 30fps from a colour e-ink display. I can hardly imagine how strange it would be watching a video on one of these things.

        Yeah, that's got to be the most revolutionary bit about it.

        I've never bought a Kindle or any other e-ink device (though I tested plenty) because you can read a book in the time it takes to refresh the screen, which sort of defeats the point.

        • What is the point for you then? The point for me is first not having to have a shelf full of books, and second because I can carry around many books - even massive textbooks - in one small form factor. The page turn times really are fast enough for - probably about three quarters of a second at most on my Kindle keyboard, and maybe 0.1 of a second on my Android phone and tablet.

          It's funny - now whenever I read a real book, I want to touch the words on the screen to do a dictionary check.. then realise that

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            >>What is the point for you then? The point for me is first not having to have a shelf full of books, and second because I can carry around many books - even massive textbooks - in one small form factor.

            Sure, same selling point for me. But when a device pisses me off with glacial refresh or page turn times, it's just not very useful for me.

            Try flipping on a e-ink Kindle one page at a time through a book, and then try it from inside of a non-eink tablet, and a PC. The difference is pretty damn noticeab

            • Well, I guess I must be too relaxed to care these days. The switch is obviously long enough to be noticeable, but I don't think the time is much different to turning a page - only there's less hassle because you are doing a tiny button click instead of moving a couple of fingers or a whole hand around. Either that or you have an earlier Kindle version than I have (bought mine in January).

              I read my tablet at home, and my Kindle each day on the bus, so I have experience of both.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Indeed.. 30fps from a colour e-ink display. I can hardly imagine how strange it would be watching a video on one of these things.

        The only downside is that it's going to take a lot of CPU and thus a lot of battery to do the artistic painting effects we're all going to want to do with our screen refreshes and such.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Not forgetting those upcoming "Lithium Air" batteries.
    • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:19PM (#38069316)

      We've been hearing about this technology for years now, and unfortunately it's taken it so long to get to market that I think they've missed their market window.

      Smartphones and tablets, spurred on in large part by Apple, have entered into an arms race of display quality with consumer displays the likes has never been seen before. The sort of displays our mobile devices have make our computer monitors look shameful, with AMOLED pushing the boundaries in terms of true blacks and contrast ratios and viewing angles, and ever-higher resolutions pushing DPIs to the boundaries of human sight. Most LCD IPS displays, which are the cream of the crop for desktop monitors and better than any flat-screen TV, are really just average at best these days in the mobile world.

      The Mirasol displays, at least the ones that have been demoed, have never been the highest quality displays. Their two huge advantages are daylight-readability and low power-consumption. Those are two very positive traits, but at this stage, I don't really foresee anything outside of a niche market giving up ordinary-circumstance display quality for these.

      • by mug funky (910186)

        colour accuracy has never been worse.

        as an apple h8er, i'll concede that their screen is the best in the tablet market, but it's in no way accurate (especially when it's crusted with grease marks).

        domestic LCD/LED/plasmas are all shit in this regard if left at factory settings, but at least when you calibrate them they can actually reproduce the whole gamut. the current crop of netbook and tablet displays can't do full saturation at all, meaning if you tweak a picture to look good on one, i'll look like a

      • by initialE (758110)

        On the contrary, I think this is an excellent time to bring out new technology on products that the market already wants. Every iteration of a smartphone or tablet needs to bring out something different, something new, in order for people to ditch perfectly functional gadgets and get their hit of the latest coolness. In the end, it all boils down to how well you do your sales pitch, but underlying it is the assumption that you actually have something new to sell.

    • by adamchou (993073)
      Can you please provide reference to the other low power passive technologies you mentioned? I'd like to do some research on whats around the corner and it sounds like you already know who the front runners are. Thanks.
    • by morgauxo (974071)
      Which device manufacturer will buy the contract and get a monopoly?
  • Backlight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alendit (1454311) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:45PM (#38068316)

    Am I the only one who wants backlight in his tablet? E-Ink is all nice and good, but its stupid to have to turn the lights on to read from an electronic device...

    • Actually how hard would it be to have either a backlight that could be turned on/off at whim or a small glow bar that swung out from the face a short distance to provide illumination as needed?
      • Re:Backlight (Score:5, Informative)

        by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:54PM (#38069064) Journal

        You cannot have a backlight with eInk, because it is not transparent. Not sure about Mirasol.

        A compact retractable LED light is certainly possible, and, indeed, precisely what Amazon did with their Kindle cover.

        • by BlueCoder (223005)

          I can imagine combining it with transparent LCD tech where an LCD puts out light in one direction but is transparent when the light shines back. Also such an overlay wouldn't require any resolution.

          • Would someone RTFA? The displays have LCDs on the side which provide light for viewing when there is not enough ambient light.

    • Re:Backlight (Score:4, Informative)

      by idji (984038) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:07PM (#38068538)
      Wrong! You will need much less front light than back light to see things. You need back light ALL THE TIME. You only need front light WHEN IT IS DARK. These devices will probably have away to produce some "side light" so you can read in the dark
    • Re:Backlight (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:09PM (#38068560)

      Page two of the article states:
      "In dark conditions, light is directed onto the panel's modulators from LED lights at the edge of the panel."

    • Re:Backlight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:22PM (#38068682) Journal

      Is it stupid to have to turn a light on to see at all?

      You'd normally need a light to read a real book anyways, how is needing a light to read something on a different surface any different?

      Maybe you like having tons of photons projected directly into your eyes, when your pupils are mostly dilated to accommodate reflect the total amount of light visible to you (which actually doesn't tend to average to much if the room is otherwise too dark to be able to read anything that isn't actually glowing, so your pupils are generally more dilated than they might need to be), but not everybody likes trying to read while staring into a flashlight.

      • by adolf (21054)

        so your pupils are generally more dilated than they might need to be), but not everybody likes trying to read while staring into a flashlight.

        I think this is why the brightness of such displays is generally adjustable.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          Yes, of course... but to typically get it at a level that is suitable, you end up reducing contrast to below the level it would have otherwise appeared on a normal printed page, and given that the visual center of our brains depends heavily on contrast to identify shapes, one might as well just be trying to read a normal book in low light. While not actually being bad for your eyes directly, it's a pretty fast way to get a migraine.
          • by adolf (21054)

            I often prefer reading things with low contrast and low luminosity, particularly at night, and especially when excess ambient light might bother other people around me.

            Furthermore, even in today's civilized world, I don't always have control over the lighting of my immediate surroundings. Sometimes it is simply too dark to read, and I want to read anyway.

            I also don't get migraines, which I believe is a (non-)trait that I share with most other people.

            Please stop assuming that your own personal problems and

            • by mark-t (151149)
              How often do you hear the notion that self-illuminating displays cause eye-strain? (Actually "eye-strain" is most likely a misinterpretation of what is actually physiologically going on, but it's still descriptive enough to give a general idea of where the problem actually lies.)

              The problem is not unique to myself... not remotely.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:52PM (#38068394)

    They're just now building the factory, and you expect the product to be in devices next year? That would be the smoothest production bring-up in history. Maybe in 2013.

  • by Smallpond (221300) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:54PM (#38068416) Homepage Journal

    The Mirasol display technology is pretty cool.
    http://www.mirasoldisplays.com/mobile-display-imod-technology [mirasoldisplays.com]

    • by Tacvek (948259)

      Based on that video, it appears that the display is a 3 bit display, relying on the miniscule sizes and dithering to create intermediate tones. If the interface treats a hundred or so elements as one logical pixel that may work fine. Otherwise... well lets just say as a developer it suck to have to either predither for display, or to accept that different colors have different minimum widths necessary to display correctly.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:12PM (#38068578) Journal

    Make it large enough to handle textbook content presented at a readable size (typically letter-sized pages), and I'd be all over it, as long as it allowed me to upload my own pdf's to it, and, perhaps no less important, as long as it wasn't priced ridiculously high. And yeah, I know there's some e-ink readers oout there with displays nearly that big, but the current state of affairs with eink displays totally blows. Page refreshes are so slow that I'd rather carry 20 lbs worth of textbooks than try to use an eink reader for anything other than the reading of fiction.

    A 14" screen would be ideal... although with a respectable resolution, a 10-11" one might also be able to suffice.

    • by rjstanford (69735)

      Make it large enough to handle textbook content presented at a readable size (typically letter-sized pages), and I'd be all over it, as long as it allowed me to upload my own pdf's to it, and, perhaps no less important, as long as it wasn't priced ridiculously high. And yeah, I know there's some e-ink readers oout there with displays nearly that big, but the current state of affairs with eink displays totally blows. Page refreshes are so slow that I'd rather carry 20 lbs worth of textbooks than try to use an eink reader for anything other than the reading of fiction.

      Actually, full letter size is generally far too large. Take a standrd hardback book, then pare down the margin space you no longer need (and which is to be replaced by screen bezel, not empty pixels), and you've got a very well established field-tested form factor to work with.

      • by fyngyrz (762201)

        Better yet, get rid of the screen bezel and build a collapsible handle system into the back, so your hand can be behind it, yet still hold it securely. The bezel on my iPad strikes me as a complete waste of space. I might feel better about it if there had been a camera in my gen 1, but there isn't... the bezel just makes the thing so big I can quite get my hand around it without an uncomfortable stretch. We'll have a Kindle Fire in the house tomorrow, looking forward to reading on something that actually fi

        • by Marcika (1003625)
          The bezel could shrink - but only if your new screen tech consumes a lot less juice. The iPad's dimensions and weight are determined by the massive battery needed to get a 10 hour run time for the LCD, not mechanical constraints. (This is also why smaller tablets like the Fire only run for 6-8 hours.)

          If bezel width were determined by mechanical reasons, the bezel wouldn't need to be any wider than an iPhone bezel...

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          they'd need to do a dead zone around the edges for touch control, too.
          but qualcomm will just build the displays, it will be up to device manufacturers to actually put them to use.

          what this will do, is that it will push other display tech to cheaper regions.

  • Can't wait! (Score:5, Informative)

    by engun (1234934) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:19PM (#38068654)
    I can't wait for this tech to get into tablets. Just a few of the advantages I'm expecting (and here's hoping there will be no disappointments)

    1. I stare at an LCD screen all day, and I really detest the backlight. This is what prevents me from reading on a "tablet". Mirasol will fix that.
    2. The Kindle's e-ink display, even though it didn't have colour, was simply amazing. However, the slow refresh rates combined with the lack of colour, made it too special purpose. Mirasol fixes all that, allowing for a general purpose tablet + e-reader and I can't imagine why that wouldn't succeed.
    3. The paper like effect (which I assume Mirasol will have), will be so much easier on the eyes - meaning less eye strain. Given a choice between ruining my eye sight and enduring bad colour, I'll choose bad colour anytime.
    4. We can go back to the look & feel of paper without the associated wastage (trees cut down etc. etc). One "electronic book" to substitute them all.
    5. A battery life comparable in the kindle range instead of the lcd range would be an added bonus, but not a deal breaker.
    6. Resolution however is important. I assume that high res screens will be available.
    7. Some form of built-in illumination in the absence of ambient light.
    • Re:Can't wait! (Score:4, Informative)

      by macshit (157376) <miles.gnu@org> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:13PM (#38069248) Homepage

      I can't wait for this tech to get into tablets. Just a few of the advantages I'm expecting (and here's hoping there will be no disappointments)
      ...
      3. The paper like effect (which I assume Mirasol will have), will be so much easier on the eyes - meaning less eye strain. Given a choice between ruining my eye sight and enduring bad colour, I'll choose bad colour anytime.
      4. We can go back to the look & feel of paper without the associated wastage (trees cut down etc. etc). One "electronic book" to substitute them all.

      I dunno, it's not so clear it will be "paper-like"...

      e-paper uses a real matte reflective surface, like paper, but this mirasol stuff seems to be based on thin-film mirrors—i.e., not matte. Maybe they can do something with a diffusing layer over that, but who knows how much that will look like a real matte surface; it could look more like a material with significant sub-surface scatting, like wax...

      The other thing of course, is that because mirasol uses separate wave-length-specific sub-pixels for red, green, and blue, the amount of light reflected is going to be cut down accordingly, as each sub-pixel will be absorbing many wavelengths even when in its "reflecting" state. So it may very well be kind of dim. [On an LCD, they can compensate for that by simply cranking up the backlight sufficiently to make up for any losses, but mirasol is supposed to work in ambient light...]

  • by tylerni7 (944579) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @08:42PM (#38068920) Homepage
    What does the article mean by e-ink like power consumption? I can't tell if this technology requires power to remain in a given state, or whether it can be static like e-ink. Although the low power consumption of e-ink displays is largely due to their lack of a backlight, being able to display static content with 0 power consumption is really one of the coolest parts about e-ink tech.

    I read the article but it didn't seem to answer this, do any readers know? If it could display static content for free then that would be incredibly awesome.
  • As described, I'd expect poor image quality for three independent reasons.

    First, the cavities have just two reflecting surfaces. The interference design may work wonders on butterfly wings, but they have many reflective layers, not just two. With just two, the wavelength specificity of the reflected light will be poor: you won't be able to make a bright green spot, merely a greenish spot.

    Second, each subpixel can reflect only a particular colour (presumably they'll go for red, green and blue subpixels.) So

    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:52AM (#38070680) Homepage Journal

      With just two, the wavelength specificity of the reflected light will be poor: you won't be able to make a bright green spot, merely a greenish spot.

      No. The resonance (physical size) of the cavity controls the color; it doesn't depend upon how many layers are in there.

      This means that if we try to set the pixel as bright as possible (all subpixels on) we'll still only get a medium grey, not white.

      Yes and no (mostly no.) Look at your LCD screen. See that bright, burn-your-eyes out white capability? That comes from r,g and b spots. Meaning, each spot is only emitting 1/3 of the light that it takes to be white, or, in your concept, you're only seeing 1/3 as "white" as you could be (well, not exactly, since our eyes are nonlinear between red, green and blue, but anyway...) Still makes for a nice white. Bottom line: You don't have to reflect every photon to make a decent white. And in fact, paper reflects a lot of them at angles that don't hit your eyes, so you're not getting them all there, either. The "brightness" of the white here will depend on how wide the reflected photons spread on the way back out of the cells. Or to look at it another way, if the light reflection angle is 1/3 of the light capture angle, it'll seem perfectly white to you. The RGB nature of them isn't really the limiting factor.

      each subpixel is either on or off, so each pixel can only display 8 colours.

      No. Each pixel holds many elements. So the color of the pixel doesn't depend upon its neighbors.

      • by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > Look at your LCD screen. See that bright, burn-your-eyes out white capability?

        Ever looked at the naked backlight? THAT is burn your eyes out white. More than half is lost to the polarizer, then more than two thirds of what remains gets lost to the color filtering. That is why even a LED backlit LCD display draws so much fracking current if it is very large. Incandescent bulbs are about as power efficient . That is why we so need an alternative if we ever hope to have portable electronics that aren

  • by boristdog (133725) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:26PM (#38070252)

    This technology uses "interferometric modulators", which I cannot hear in anything but Marvin the Martian's voice.

    • by fyngyrz (762201)

      [moves arms in circle from over head down to sides, with accompanying Ack-ack-aaack-ack-aaack!]

      [Shoots Dove of Peace]

  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:29AM (#38070852)

    It's made of tiny monochromatic mirrors that reflect or black out specific colors. It's relies on the number of mirrors per pixel sub-color to determine color intensity. While I suspect they are grouping the sub-colors per pixel right next to each other if they didn't... if every sub-pixel on this display was more or less a group of RGB each... (not likely since humans are more sensitive to certain colors) then the display would be capable or variable resolution. More resolution the closer you get to the pure RGB colors or black and white. So text on the screen can potentially be at a higher resolution while colors pictures appear at lower resolutions. This is such an advantage I suspect the research is focused on interleaved color manufacturing. While the colors on the screen won't be perfect RGB they will be a balanced matrix of colors. Addressing is the only technical challenge which would mean three different color address buses for three different screen colors. One color, I think blue being a reduced resolution for a smaller palette. That's a lot info to be transmitted but fortunately the display is it's own memory.

    So to sum it up pictures at normal resolution, black/white text at 1000 times the resolution and nominal color text at 100 times the resolution.

    I want one....

  • If we use an eink-like display with 30fps frequency would it still use less power?

    • by zevans (101778)

      Yes, because it's still ONLY drawing power when the display changes. Even if that's 30 times a second that's still better than drawing power throughout the entire second.

Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are?

Working...