At last year's Consumer Electronics Show, we saw something beautiful: Mirasol by Qualcomm, a colour E Ink display that even can work fast enough to display basic video.
We ooh-ed. We aah-ed. We waited. And this year, Mirasol was once again on display. It didn't have its own booth, but a small showcase was set up in Qualcomm's booth, and the technology — intriguing as ever — was definitely getting a lot of attention. The prototypes Qualcomm was showing seem improved from earlier models the company had been teasing at previous events, and PR reps were careful to note that the video loop on the prototype's screen was indeed running at a smooth 30fps.
What was a little surprising, however, was that the company hadn't made more progress in a year. Also, the only screen size it was showing was 5.7 inches (the Kindle has a 6-inch screen, measured diagonally) and a PR rep said that the company would not be developing any larger screen sizes this year.
Mirasol, the rep said, was focused on the 5.7-inch size for e-readers and was also making a big push with smaller screens for smartphones. That's obviously a much bigger market than e-readers and Qualcomm is in the process of building a $975 million factory in Taiwan to make these screens in mass quantities. Apparently, a different factory in Taiwan will make screens until the new factory goes online early next year.
Alas, Mirasol had no product to announce, only that it was working with vendors such as PocketBook, which sells primarily into Europe, to bring out an e-reader later this year. How much that e-reader will cost and when it will hit the market are very much up in the air.
Hanvon, on the other hand, managed to attract a lot of attention with its WISEreader E920. With a larger, more magazine-friendly 9.7-inch screen, the reader also boasts a colour display based on Mirasol's rival, Triton. The first colour E Ink reader to hit the market, the E920 has some big anticipations to fulfil; unfortunately, hands-on reports bemoan its muted colours and slow refresh rates.
And further disappointing (although unsurprising) news for Australians: although Hanvon is making plans to release the E920 in China and the US from May 2011 onwards, there was no mention at all of whether we can expect to see it down under.
Whether we will see an e-reader application soon or no, the tech behind the Mirasol display — based, according to Qualcomm, on butterfly wings — is pretty interesting. Watch the video below, or read more about it on the Mirasol website.