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Pixel Qi Screens are for Laptops and Tablets, Not Just OLPC (Video) 82

Posted by Roblimo
from the tablet-screens-that-won't-make-you-squint-in-sunlight dept.
While at CES, Timothy Lord talked with Pixel Qi Chief Operating Officer John Ryan about how the company, which was originally founded to make screens for the One Laptop Per Child project, is now moving into the commercial market for laptop and tablet screens. Pixel Qi screens are not only inexpensive to make, but are easier to read in sunlight than standard LCDs -- and use less power, too. What they're doing now, says Timothy in the video, is "pretty cool," so check it out.

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Pixel Qi Screens are for Laptops and Tablets, Not Just OLPC (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    More!

    • by hattig (47930)

      Well, it isn't the usual techy website video with logos that "slam" onto the image whilst burning, etc, I guess.

      But, what early 80s voice synth did they dig up there?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:25PM (#38717180) Journal

    Was he the only journalist at CES? I never heard that name before last week.

    • by pavon (30274) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:29PM (#38717236)

      Timothy Lord is this timothy [slashdot.org], who has been working at slashdot pretty much since it was formed.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        No kidding. First time I've heard his full name. Hi Timothy.

        • So weird seeing an editor. For a while I thought that only CmdrTaco was a living human, and the rest were AI's modeled after hyperactive drunks.
          This guy actually accepted some of my submissions. Frickin' twilight zone...
          • For a while I thought that only CmdrTaco was a living human, and the rest were AI's modeled after hyperactive drunks.

            No, the Editors are hyperactive drunks that modeled their lives after AI, the movie. Which explains all the Haley Joel Osment references around here.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:25PM (#38717192) Homepage Journal

    The "Alan Kay" Dynabook I keep talking about doesn't really need colour for it's most important function -- replacing a notepad. If the Pixel Qi screens have a high resolution stylus/touch capability, they might be ideal for such a device.

    i.e. The Dynabook was conceived to be a useful, utilitarian device, not a video or game playing machine.

    • by pavon (30274) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:37PM (#38717352)

      Agreed. Asus was getting really close to what I wanted in a tablet when they released the Eee Note [asus.com]. Then the iPad came out and killed any consumer interest in any other niche products.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Thanks for the info!
        That is an awesome device, IMHO...just what I was looking for when I settled for my Augen 'The Book'. (which I really like, but would really like the 'notepad with stylus' mode the Note has, and it runs on Linux!)

        I will have to try and find a Note of my own now. :-)

        Something like the Note is what I have really wanted for about 10-12 years now.
        There have been a few devices that tried, but never combined all of what I wanted in one device that I could afford, until now.

        • by pavon (30274)

          They can be hard to find as they were never released in North America, and only sparsely distributed in Europe. The initial reviews also complained about some lack of polish in the included software; things that most eBook readers have nailed by now. For example the device is too small to read most A4/letter size PDFs a full page at a time, and the software doesn't support rotating the document to view it full width, so you have to constantly scroll both side-to-side and up and down when zoomed in on the PD

      • by rdnetto (955205)

        Asus is currently the most adventurous/innovative tablet manufacturer. The eeePad Memo has essentially the same form factor as the Eee Note.

    • by c++0xFF (1758032)

      The screens themselves can probably be paired with any touchscreen and controller. See the Notion Ink Adam for an example of a capacitive touchscreen matched with the Pixel Qi.

      Re: the Dynabook, purely utilitarian devices will not sell ... as someone once put it, the more game-like a product is, the more people will want it. (Paraphrasing, sorry). Relevantly, this was in reference to the introduction of color computer monitors in the '80s. Likewise, a Dynabook-like tablet will only be successful if it at

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Do you think Blackberries still sell because of their "hot games"?

        • by c++0xFF (1758032)

          Just to be clear: my point wasn't concerning the availability of games or the ability to play games on the device. My point was more on the "feel" of the device.

          If you were to put a simple B&W, text-only display on a modern blackberry ... no, they won't sell well, even if 100% of their functionality is still there.

          That said, I was probably a bit too absolute in my original post, and blackberries are an example of that -- instead of creating a "game-like" device, RIM was a business tool that many profes

  • What am I missing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quangdog (1002624) <quangdog@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:27PM (#38717216)
    These displays sound great - lower power, better color, sunlight viewability... but the British stiff they interviewed said that they haven't been able to get them into mainstream portable devices. Why? What are the drawbacks?
    • I wonder that, too. Seems like they'd be perfect for things that regularly get used outdoors in bright sunlight - like cell phones. Last I look, Pixel Qi wasn't offering a screen that was suitable for use in cell phone.

      • Well, Pixel Qi screens are a) LCDs instead of ((S)AM)OLED, so when they need backlight, they suck power, and b) they have about half the DPI of most modern smartphones. I personally think we'll see them more at the low end of the phone spectrum. IIRC, there's already a dumbphone that uses e-ink for a screen, so Pixel Qi would be a step up from that.
    • by Elgonn (921934)
      Price and supply. They're really just not available cheaply and in large quantities.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by bemymonkey (1244086)

      They look like crap. Google the Notion Ink Adam.

      • by theweakend (2554288) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:53PM (#38717578)
        Keep in mind that was an early version, the viewing angels are really what made it look so bad and besides the notion ink really was a medicore device but it is settled get ics.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I don't need to Google the Notion Ink Adam; I have one. The screen is not nearly as bad as the Google would lead one to believe and is fantastic if you use it outside. (The software is by far the biggest failing of the Adam; the screen is the only thing that makes it worth having.)

        • The screen isn't bad per se, but the full color mode looks significantly worse than the average LCD. Inaccurate colors, horrible viewing angles from two sides (but fine from the others)... just not a very nice experience if you're used to regular screens.

          The outdoor viewable mode might make that trade-off acceptable for you, but that doesn't make the full color mode's picture quality any better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dmbasso (1052166)

        Dear troll, you are entitled to your opinion. As I have one XO, I know how great these screens are (it is my opinion). It is also my opinion that you could have said 'X is much better than Y', instead of 'X is crap'. Therefore, my final opinion is (with all due respect) that you are a cunt and you should go fuck yourself.

        • Dear guy who likes to swear and insult people,

          I've held an Adam in my hands and played with it - because I was planning on buying one for the oh so fantastic pixel Qi screen... and the sunlight-readable mode is great, really. But as soon as I switched to full-color mode, I knew it wasn't for me - washed out colors, extermely narrow viewing angles from two sides (and barely so-so on the others), low contrast... it just isn't a good display.

          Yes, sunlight-readable displays are awesome. But until the full-color

          • by dmbasso (1052166)

            My point was that you didn't have to say it looked like crap. It's like saying "This Ferrari looks like crap. Google for Dodge Viper".
            It is a great technology, it only has its drawbacks. I apologize for insulting you.

            • You're right. "They look like crap" was just easier to type out on my smartphone than "The subpar viewing angles and washed out colors in full color mode make it a pain to use for anything other than reading high-contrast text"... you're right though, next time I'll be more precise and choose my words more carefully :)

              I hope you're right in that the technology behind Pixel Qi is getting better and better, but the version in the Adam was pretty horrible for full-color use - so much so that it was a deal-brea

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It looks great on my old OLPC-1! Color inside is bright, and the monochrome aspect was great for reading at the beach (just the unit was a bit too heavy to hold for long).

        Maybe Notion Ink cut corners that OLPC did not?

        RO

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They look like crap. Google the Notion Ink Adam.

        Yeah, I call troll too. The screen on my XO is the best black and white LCD display I have ever seen on any device, ever.

    • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:39PM (#38717394) Journal

      It's only lower power if you don't utilize the backlight, and thereby also lose color.

      The color display suffers from just as much contrast problems in sunlight as regular LCD monitors do.

      There are other more promising (IMO) color displays on the horizon that offer high refresh rates, full color, and utilize a passive display that draws *NO* power whenever it is showing a static image.

      • Care to share these "products on the horizon"?
        • by Anonymous Coward

          I think he means those color e-ink displays that some Japanese (I think) team managed to get to 30 fps.
          There was a /. article about them, but I can't find it anymore.
          Of course they are far from production ready.

          • by jijacob (943393)
            And they are "color". Hardly the saturation we are used to, and really only good if the other alternative is black and white.
        • by JonySuede (1908576) on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:19PM (#38717938) Journal

          http://www.mirasoldisplays.com/ [mirasoldisplays.com] from qualcomm is just one example

          • It would be more impressive if their demo videos were of real products and not Adobe After Effects. The actual videos of real hardware look like they still have a lot of work to do with colour reproduction and refresh rates. The marketing on their website of microsecond pixel updates, video capable refresh rates and "Naturally Brilliant Color" is contradicted by the KYOBO eReader
            • I only saw the B&W version and it was damn fast however the color one might have some power hungry mathemagic behind it...

        • by Timmmm (636430)

          Electrofluidic displays, but they are probably beyond the horizon.

      • I believe this is what he's talking about http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDoVzKd9H4U [youtube.com] this still has years until it's out, if ever pixel QI is ready now.
        • I stand corrected I haven't looked at their site in a long time it looks very promising.
        • by peragrin (659227)

          considering I have been waiting for mainstream pixelqi screens for 4 years now (slashdot has articles back to 2008 on Pixel Qi)

          I would say they have found some serious limitations that stop customers cold

          • by macshit (157376)

            Seriously, Pixel Qi (and Mirasol) has been "an almost ready LCD killer" for ages now.

            Granted, this is not unusal for new technologies—a real product is a lot harder than an imagined extension of a lab experiment—but given that really all anybody has seen is essentially marketing material, it's probably not wise to bet a lot of money on any of these techs. Some promising new technologies eventually change the world—but many more fade away unnoticed.

      • by DrXym (126579)

        There are other more promising (IMO) color displays on the horizon that offer high refresh rates, full color, and utilize a passive display that draws *NO* power whenever it is showing a static image.

        The only display I'm aware of that fits that description is Mirasol and refresh rates are high by comparison to e-ink but not to LCD. It's very easy to see the screen tear to shit through the various YouTube clips of it running. And that's not an artifact of YouTube since it's even visible on the Kyobo devices which appear to refresh from left to right instead of top to bottom. That said, for the purpose its intended for, a little tearing is still a radical improvement on glacial greyscale e-ink and it's p

        • by c++0xFF (1758032)

          Yeah, the refresh rate of the Mirasol still limits it to the ebook reader market. Current-generation is 15 fps, which is much better than current e-ink, but still not sufficient for general purpose use. I believe that a 30 fps version has been demonstrated, so the next generation devices might have a wider market. 60+ fps is probably only theoretically possible, at the moment.

    • by publiclurker (952615) on Monday January 16, 2012 @03:39PM (#38717402)
      If they still operate like the one in my OLPC computer (I can't view the link at work), you disable color to make the screen daylight viewable. while annoying to some people, I think it's a fair tradeoff , and it works remarkably well.
      • by rsborg (111459)

        If they still operate like the one in my OLPC computer (I can't view the link at work), you disable color to make the screen daylight viewable. while annoying to some people, I think it's a fair tradeoff , and it works remarkably well.

        While a fair tradeoff, it does require that the UI not look like shit when color is missing. Is that something that's true of all Android UIs including apps? How about (likely worse) Windows?

        OLPC, somewhat like Apple, can get away with it because the UI is likely optimized for the hardware. PixelQI is not something you can just slap into a device by replacing the LCD. It gets even worse for OSs with large 3rd party software stores - it would be a large undertaking if, for example, Apple created a new iP

    • by xMrFishx (1956084)
      It's possible that they are non-consumer because they can't be produced at the same volume as demanded by a consumer-space product, so a production speed or cost issue. Perhaps they are technologically inferior to a typical phone screen in terms of fill rate and response times relative to their cost (i.e. not worth getting something like that for its cost compared to a samsung screen). They may be excellent screens for what they are designed for, but may not have so much of a product market here, where ba
    • by na1led (1030470)
      If it's cheap TFT displays, expect low resolution - 640x480 max?
    • Mediocre Color (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pavon (30274) on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:04PM (#38717742)

      These displays sound great - lower power, better color, sunlight viewability... but the British stiff they interviewed said that they haven't been able to get them into mainstream portable devices. Why? What are the drawbacks?

      They don't have better color than a standard LCD or AMOLED. The original PixelQi displays have significantly worse saturation. In my mind this makes well suited for devices such as eBook readers whose primary use is reflective greyscale mode, but can also display color as well. Marketing departments however think that anything with a color display will automatically be compared to the iPad, and they are probably right.

      • by c++0xFF (1758032)

        I think the Kindle Fire would have been a prime candidate for the Pixel Qi, except for the $200 price point. People were already comparing it to the iPad, so what difference would it make? It might have even helped on the comparison, to solidify the Fire as an e-book reader. But I don't think there's any way they would be selling it for $200, even if they expect the hardware to be a loss leader.

        Oh well ... maybe the Fire 2 will have a Mirasol or Pixel Qi display.

    • by Dan East (318230) on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:25PM (#38718014) Homepage Journal

      The "problem" is that there is a particular trend at this moment, and Pixel Qi does not fit in that trend. The trend being ultra high DPI, colorful, high-contrast displays. You've got devices like the iPhone and iPad sporting "retina" displays, which being something Apple has touted, is very much in the mind of consumers. Then you've got devices like Samsung's Android phones, with gorgeous colors and insane contrast ratios due to OLED technology. What stole the show at CES? Samsung's ultra thin, bezel-less OLED TVs. Consumers are interested in HD and picture quality, because that is what the industry has brought to everyone's attention (and rightfully so - I'm glad people are taking a little more notice over quality these days. I remember the days when most people couldn't be bothered to adjust the color / hue settings on their tube TVs to something even close to reality.)

      Pixel Qi display technology offers more flexibility and versatility, but it is a step backwards in clarity, refresh rate, contrast ratios, etc. So OEMs are probably afraid to include technology that looks substandard under typical day-to-day use, although it is far more useful under other conditions like direct sunlight.

      I think one of three things will have to happen for Pixel Qi to find more widespread usage. 1) Increase their visual quality of their display under non-reflective mode to be in the ballpark of your typical modern LCD panels. 2) Wait until the hype dies down over retina displays, OLED, etc, which may take a year or two. 3) Make inroads into non-consumer devices, such as military equipment, industries like the telephone company where field techs use ruggedized laptops and other instruments with displays that need to be viewable under direct sunlight, displays in cars, wristwatches, etc.

      • by thsths (31372)

        > 1) Increase their visual quality of their display under non-reflective mode to be in the ballpark of your typical modern LCD panels.

        I am not sure they can - the technology seems to be a trade-off between colour quality and day light visibility. Basically the display is "two in one", and each of the two functions is fighting for space.

        > 2) Wait until the hype dies down over retina displays, OLED, etc, which may take a year or two.

        Good luck. Traditionally display resolution knows only one direction:

    • by joh (27088)

      What are the drawbacks?

      Poor colors, poor contrast, poor viewing angles in normal (color) mode.

      Basically it has one tiny advantage (readable in bright light) that you have to buy with having what for all intents and purposes is a piss-poor LCD everywhere else. And most people use their devices indoor anyway where Pixel Qi displays look like a cheap LCD from five years ago. And the mainstream vendors know this very well.

      Pixel Qi is not a miracle display technology. It has its uses in certain cases but it's no

      • by GSloop (165220)

        Basically it has one tiny advantage...
        actually being able to _use_ your device in some setting where ambient light is better than minimal.

        FTFY.

        All kidding aside, I don't consider being able to use my device in high ambient light conditions "one tiny advantage."

        I consider that to be a very large portion of available use that simply isn't possible.

        At the current time, since nearly no-one has actually been able to use a tablet at the beach, or at the park etc, it SEEMS like a tiny advantage. Just like how a ta

        • by joh (27088)

          I don't consider being able to use my device in high ambient light conditions "one tiny advantage."

          Maybe, but you're a rather small market ;-)

          Really, how often is the average user unable to use his tablet or smartphone due to the light being too bright? Don't forget that displays have become brighter and brighter in the last years. And what amount of poor colors, contrast and viewing angles do you think would he accept to have this fixed? I tell you what: He wouldn't be willing to give up *any* of this. He

          • by jbengt (874751)

            Modern LCD/LED displays are bad in very bright light (like direct sunlight) and very good everywhere else.

            Direct sunlight is unnecessary, in my experience. My laptop is almost unusable outdoors on a mostly cloudy day even when in the shade on my deck at the north side of my house.

          • by GSloop (165220)

            I agree with the other poster here:
            You vastly inflate the ability of the LCD to handle high ambient light conditions, and vastly deflate the capability and functionality of the PQ screens. Perhaps you do that innocently, but it's hard to grant you credibility when your descriptions are so one-sided.

            I have a hard time reading my OLED phone screen in the *car* when it's at all bright out. That's far from full sun.

            When really outside, on a moderately bright day? Forget using the phone except in the most rudime

    • Pixel Qi does both "eInk" and color, but unfortunately does both very poorly.

      If you ever get your hands on one, you'll see the problems immediately. The B&W mode is faded and hard to read. The color mode is washed-out and has a ridiculously bad viewing angle. Seriously, it's barely usable. I'm sure all tablet manufacturers have reviewed Pixel Qi, and their reasons for not using it are simply that it doesn't deliver an acceptbile user experience.

      I wanted this to work very, very badly, because both e

      • by thsths (31372)

        > I wanted this to work very, very badly, because both eInk and color tablets are an exercise in painful compromise for me.

        A tablet has two sides, maybe it should have an LCD display on one, and eInk on the other? Better patent that before Apple gets it :-)

  • by backslashdot (95548) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:24PM (#38718806)

    The Pixel Qi resolutions suck .. tablet displays going forward will need 250 ppi or high. Even laptops will likely require 200 ppi and up to be competitive in 3Q and 4Q of this year.

  • I have been wanting an affordable eInk/ePaper display the size of a painting that I can hang on my wall and update via wifi so my kids can "paint" pictures on their tablets and upload them to the wall display for the whole family to enjoy (and to encourage them to express themselves and cultivate their artistic talents).

    Pixel Qi looks like it's not there yet, but may get there eventually.

    Does anyone know if there are other players who are there already?

    • by Marcika (1003625)
      Qualcomm Mirasol is pretty much there (full color, stable without electricity, 15fps), but so far they've only scaled it up to 6 inches; I think you'll have to wait 3-5 years to have a 24 inch version...
  • Is there any way we can get this video in a non-proprietary format? Uploading it to YouTube would be sufficient.

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