The digital light future won’t be based on any one particular technology. Different technologies will solve different needs. And, as was mentioned in an earlier post, there are some serious obstacles that need to be overcome. Power consumption and energy efficiency are high on that list. Most technologies emit light. The brighter they are, the more energy they use.
Reflective technologies instead use the ambient light around us and thus consume much less power. The downside is that the display contrast is lower and they obviously aren’t much good in the dark. Display contrast in a brightly lit room isn’t as big a factor as one would think –the real contrast of pretty much any display is less in a bright environment.
Electronic ink –ePaper, eInk, whatever you want to call it– is one reflective technology that could be important to the future of digital light. Fujitsu has announced an improved color cholesteric (no backlight needed) LCD display recently. Pixel pitch is tiny — 0.16mm — so the pixels are effectively not noticeable. The display isn’t suitable for video (0.7 seconds to change an image) but for many ‘pixels everywhere’ applications, semi-static images will do nicely. The question will be how far this can be scaled up in size and down in cost per square meter.
If you’re interested in the general field of ePaper,this link will give you an overview of the field: http://www.epapercentral.com/epaper-technologies-guide
People have been experimenting for some time with wearable pixels. For instance, Moritz Waldemeyer in the UK has become well-known in digital fashion; he also has an interesting blog. Another example of his work is in the video below that goes back several years.
Vega Wang in China experimented with electroluminescence in clothing.
There was even a ‘wearable’ version of the arduino controller called the lilypad that was available in the past for experimentation with wearable electronics. On the whole, though, it seems this field of digital light is in a holding pattern. Problems that need to be solved are power, weight, resolution, wiring, bulk, to name a few. Maybe a reflective technology based on ePaper (eCloth?) will be part of the solution. Someday. Until then, Pixels On Us may have to wait.
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