Apple exploring hybrid e-ink-LCD displays with independent regions

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in creating a new iPad with a hybrid display that could dynamically switch all or just part of the full-color screen to low-power black-and-white e-ink for text and other static content.



The new dynamic, hybrid system described by Apple could have sections of the screen operate as a traditional LCD screen for displaying video, while other parts with static content would be served up in e-ink. Rather than depending on the user to switch between e-ink and LCD, Apple's system would handle the work and provide content in the ideal context.



Apple's interest in the technology was revealed this week in a new patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and first discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled "Systems and Methods for Switching Between an Electronic Paper Display and a Video Display," describes hardware that can selectively switch between the two types of screens.



E-ink displays, or "electronic paper" as Apple refers to it throughout the filing, are advantageous because they do not require a backlight to operate, and they can be read more easily in direct sunlight. E-reader devices focused on delivering books, like the Amazon Kindle, use e-ink displays.



Of course, Apple is also involved in the sale of digital books through its own iBookstore. The iBooks application is available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, but it cannot be utilized on a device with an e-ink display.



Apple's patent application notes that display types on a device are typically based on an assumption about the visual content that will most often be displayed on the screen. An LCD or OLED display is ideal for high-resolution content with colors, while e-ink is ideal for static black-and-white content, like text.







The solution is to offer a screen with "multiple composite display regions," where content could be shown in both the "electronic paper" mode and "video display" format at the same time. Such a screen would also include independently activated backlights, illuminating panels when necessary.







Apple could accomplish this by having a translucent e-ink display that would be placed on top of the traditional LCD or OLED screen on an iPad. The top screen would allow users to see past it, so that video content in full color could be displayed on the screen below. And of course, atop all that would be a touch panel, allowing users to interact with the device.



The patent application, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in October of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to Gloria Lin and Andrew Hodge.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.
  • Reply 2 of 47
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    For reading "books" the Kindle is 10 times the display the iPad is. It's just WAY better. The Kindle product is a piece of crap, however.
  • Reply 3 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Makes sense, kind of like using black ink to print grays instead of mixing CMY.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I am having touuble seeing how this would be utilized by Apple and wonder if this isn?t designed as an eInk-based eReader to compete with the Kindle but instead is the evolution of a previous patent that allows for a smaller, lower-power backlight behind the primary backlight.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.



    I think they?ll have to move in that direction or risk losing their eBook market to Apple as iBookstore grows. Despute the advantages the Kndle has the extra utility of the iPad makes it a compelling product if one has to choice between one or the other.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    For reading "books" the Kindle is 10 times the display the iPad is. It's just WAY better. The Kindle product is a piece of crap, however.



    I like the latest Kindle HW. I don?t care for the dark grey text on light grey for long term reading as it strains my eyes. I have read text on an LCD for most waking hours for more than a decade and have never had ?eye strain? because of it and have never heard about such a thing until e-Ink came along. I never read book outside in direct sunlight because that does hurt my eyes, regardless of the medium. I don?t care for the Kindle SW on any system, especially compared to iBooks. Amazon has a much better selection of titles over iBookstore.
  • Reply 5 of 47
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I like the latest Kindle HW.



    The latest hardare is the Kindle 3. It's poorly built and poorly designed. Even the most important part of the product, besides the display - the page buttons, are terrible. Like REALLY terrible! Steve Jobs wouldn't let that crap out the door. Not to mention the software. It's amazingly abysmal. And the keyboard, it sucks.



    The three things that don't suck about the Kindle 3 are its weight, its slimness and its display. The display is too small though. It should be around or at least 7". Even small paperback novellas are 8" measured diagonally. The thing just wasn't properly thought through.
  • Reply 6 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    The latest hardare is the Kindle 3. It's poorly built and poorly designed. Even the most important part of the product, besides the display - the page buttons, are terrible. Like REALLY terrible! Steve Jobs wouldn't let that crap out the door. Not to mention the software. It's amazingly abysmal. And the keyboard, it sucks.



    The three things that don't suck about the Kindle 3 are its weight, its slimness and its display. The display is too small though. It should be around or at least 7". Even small paperback novellas are 8" measured diagonally. The thing just wasn't properly thought through.



    I was talking about the 9.7” Kindle DX as I can’t imagine reading anything on the 6” model, but I did say the latest model, which puts the smaller option ahead of the latest DX by about 3 weeks. However, I found the quality sufficient on the DX.



    It’s amazing how expensive it is compared to the iPad, and how heavy it is compared to the iPad 2. $379 for 4GB internal storage v $499 for 16GB internal storage, and 1.18lb v 1.3lbs. It’s always the 6’ $139 model that compared to the least expensive iPad. 1) They have to be able to bring that price and weight down, and 2) they have to be making a good profit on the HW by now.
  • Reply 7 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    The latest hardare is the Kindle 3. It's poorly built and poorly designed. Even the most important part of the product, besides the display - the page buttons, are terrible. Like REALLY terrible! Steve Jobs wouldn't let that crap out the door. Not to mention the software. It's amazingly abysmal. And the keyboard, it sucks.



    The three things that don't suck about the Kindle 3 are its weight, its slimness and its display. The display is too small though. It should be around or at least 7". Even small paperback novellas are 8" measured diagonally. The thing just wasn't properly thought through.





    As a Kindle owner, who likes it, and may even buy another one, I have to agree with your positive and negative comments.



    Yes, the most amazing thing about it is the screen -- for those that dis e-ink, you really need to give it a try -- it really is superior to backlit in a wide range of circumstances. Mainly for reading before going to sleep. There is a lot of research coming out that blasting light in our eyes before bed effects our sleep habits, as our sleep patterns are hardwired into cues we get from the environment. (Which is why most people think working the night shift sucks).



    But yes, pretty much every thing else about it is kind of crappy -- the screen is too small (wasting space with the keyboard that is hardly ever used), etc. etc.
  • Reply 8 of 47
    xsuxsu Posts: 401member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.



    The might get sued if next Kindle uses that design, if Apple does receive that patent a couple years done the road.



    In any case, I doubt Amazon has the technical knowhow to develop that kind of screen in the first place. They would have to depend on a 3rd party supplier to come up with it, and that means they will be late to market, or never at all.
  • Reply 9 of 47
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.



    The idea is simple enough but the tech is surely very hard, given how hard pixels are being pushed already.



    Apple could push this or a specialist screen maker might do it and sell to all-comers, but not Amazon I'd say.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    superbasssuperbass Posts: 688member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.



    That's why Apple patented it; they have no intention of including e-Ink on any of their devices, as that tech is patented by others and opposes the model they're going for, but they can patent the idea of incorporating it into a larger system in an effort to hinder/profit from Amazon's efforts to include certain iPad/tablet-like features into it's e-Ink products.



    Patent trolling of a high order!
  • Reply 11 of 47
    prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    This is exactly the kind of tech I expect Amazon to reveal for the next gen Kindle.



    Too bad Apple just patented it then.



    Personally I never "got" eInk from a consumer point of view. Dark grey text on lighter grey paper is not "easier to read" IMO and I do a hell of a lot of reading.



    The eInk display looks as if someone was trying to replicate the experience of reading an old pulp paperback in a dimly lit room. I prefer reading crisp black text on snowy white paper in a good light which is kind of what it's like reading on the iPhone. I almost prefer the iPhone over the iPad because of the crispness and brightness but iPad wins in most situations because of the size.
  • Reply 12 of 47
    jacksonsjacksons Posts: 244member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    The latest hardare is the Kindle 3. It's poorly built and poorly designed. Even the most important part of the product, besides the display - the page buttons, are terrible. Like REALLY terrible! Steve Jobs wouldn't let that crap out the door. Not to mention the software. It's amazingly abysmal. And the keyboard, it sucks.



    The three things that don't suck about the Kindle 3 are its weight, its slimness and its display. The display is too small though. It should be around or at least 7". Even small paperback novellas are 8" measured diagonally. The thing just wasn't properly thought through.



    Too small? It's a great width for reading as it minimizes the need for the eyes to scan left to right on a line. Great width for speed reading.
  • Reply 13 of 47
    jacksonsjacksons Posts: 244member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    Too bad Apple just patented it then.



    It's an Application. Amazon may already have prior art.
  • Reply 14 of 47
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kropoktin View Post


    As a Kindle owner, who likes it, and may even buy another one, I have to agree with your positive and negative comments.



    Yes, the most amazing thing about it is the screen -- for those that dis e-ink, you really need to give it a try -- it really is superior to backlit in a wide range of circumstances. Mainly for reading before going to sleep. There is a lot of research coming out that blasting light in our eyes before bed effects our sleep habits, as our sleep patterns are hardwired into cues we get from the environment. (Which is why most people think working the night shift sucks).



    But yes, pretty much every thing else about it is kind of crappy -- the screen is too small (wasting space with the keyboard that is hardly ever used), etc. etc.



    The Kindle now feels much more like a book.



  • Reply 15 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Superbass View Post


    That's why Apple patented it; they have no intention of including e-Ink on any of their devices, as that tech is patented by others and opposes the model they're going for, but they can patent the idea of incorporating it into a larger system in an effort to hinder/profit from Amazon's efforts to include certain iPad/tablet-like features into it's e-Ink products.



    Patent trolling of a high order!



    Your inside source for this 'no intention' knowledge at Apple is ...?



    It could well be a feature that will be see on iPads as a user option in the future. Maybe it can even be partially done in an iOS update. A slider to modify a page or an area of a page to be monochrome with a lower contrast ration between back ground and text and over all brightness should be doable. Perhaps even the current hardware is improvable for those that prefer e-Ink although a new generation of iPad could mix software and hardware mods to totally emulate e-ink where required.
  • Reply 16 of 47
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    With their enormous amount of cash on hand, Apple should just buy Pixel Qi. I'm sure that little company can be had for a pittance, by Apple standards.
  • Reply 17 of 47
    Hi all!



    My question about this patent application is whether Apple already have the technology (ready for iPad 3 next year) or if it is purely a proactive design patent for sometime in the future?



    I own a Kindle and an iPad 2. I love the iPad because of all its uses, big screen is great for reading pdfs or e manuals, comics etc. However it does make the eyes tired. I don't think I could actually read a novel on it. The Kindle is perfect for reading, the eyes jus don't tire. If Apple could combine the two then they would have the ultimate product.
  • Reply 18 of 47
    This sounds similar to technology that's been around for a while:



    CES 2011 ? from a Pixel Qi perspective
  • Reply 19 of 47
    cgc0202cgc0202 Posts: 624member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    For reading "books" the Kindle is 10 times the display the iPad is. It's just WAY better. The Kindle product is a piece of crap, however.



    That is true mainly for mostly text books. How would e-Readers, like Kindle handle image rich books, like Audubon's Birds of America or even more complex science-technology and biomedical books and journals where three=dimensional representations are very common -- in living colors. Imagine the molecular structure of proteins and interacting macromolecules. Or developmental phenomena. like how single cells become multiple cells, then dynamically develop into tissues and more specialized organs. Audio and video are also becoming more used in the electronic journal versions of scientific periodicals and magazines, especially in the sci-tech and biomedical sciences



    I never owned a Kindle, but I sat or have seen people using it. The screen look is too dull for my taste. And all those techie modes of navigating the book.



    I know it may seem a small thing, but long before IBook came out, being able to flip the electronic version of an ancient Bible (with all those rich typography and images) like an actual book was quite fascinating to me, when I first saw it at the British Library (near King's Cross???).



    I like the portability of electronic books, but I would still be interested to have a feel that it is a book.



    CGC
  • Reply 20 of 47
    triggstriggs Posts: 28member
    If this is an overlay as the article suggests, maybe we'll finally get the matte finish LCD that everyone seems to want on App,e's screens.
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