The Readius: Gadget / Reader with roll-up display coming soon

By Rob Dunn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

From the desk of Gene Roddenberry (remember those cool PDAs in ‘Earth: Final Conflict’ – or am I the only one that watched that show?) comes a product featuring a paper-thin display…and it’s coming sooner than you think.

While the concept of flexible displays has been around for a few years, it seems that Polymer Vision will shortly be introducing this to the mass consumer market. Polymer Vision (a spin-off company of Philips Electronics), produces the Readius, which has been in the public eye over a year, showing up at CES ’06 with a somewhat lackluster screen resolution/contrast prototype. It now appears that Polymer Vision has worked out the kinks and has developed a very usable display, ready to “roll out” *ahem* later this year.

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From the website:

Readius® is the world’s first rollable display enabled mobile device. It takes advantage of the unique Polymer Vision rollable display technology enabling mobile devices to incorporate a display that is larger than the device itself. This unique product launches a new era of digital content distribution for the mobile and broadband industry and opens up a whole new space of form factors for mobile terminals.

Key Features

Smaller than a typical mobile phone, the new device features:

  • A large 5-inch display that can simply be stored away after use
  • High contrast high reflectivity for paper-like reading experience, even in bright sunlight
  • One-handed navigation and control via a touch sensitive LED user interface
  • Intuitively simple software
  • Low power consumption delivering an exceptional 10 days of usage time between battery charges
  • Extensive connectivity providing updates anytime, anywhere
  • Download and playback of music, audiobooks and audio Podcasts

Specifications

  • Device dimensions: 100 mm x 55.6 mm x 21 mm (l x w x h)
  • Weight: 150 grams
  • Display:
    – Type: monochrome reflective
    – Size: 5” (128 mm) diagonal; 4:3 aspect
    – Resolution: QVGA
    – Grey levels: 16
    – Contrast: 10:1
    – Reflectivity: 35%
    – Update speed: 0.5 – 1 s
    – Supports: RSS feeds, PDF’s, e-books, e-mail and other text files
    – Audio: internal speaker and headphones (with remote control)
    – Connectivity: USB and wireless broadband
    – Storage: minimum of 4GB

The device FAQ states that “…the display consumes very little power due to the bi-stable electrophoretic display effect. Once an image is established on the display no further power is needed to keep the image on the it.” The current screens are geared for text display, and as such, the battery life for a device with a rollable screen is 10 times that of a normal LCD driven device.

The first commercial product with a rollable display by Polymer Vision is slated for late 2007 in Italy, with other countries following in 2008. While not available on their current products, color and touch sensitivity will be set for a 2nd generation release.

My opinion:

Current limitations notwithstanding (16 levels gray, 0.5 – 1 s refresh), I can definitely see this as a trend for the PMP and hand held gaming markets, especially with portable video becoming more and more prevalent. Not only that, but display manufacturing costs will undoubtedly plummet if this replaces (if it catches on!) the current LCD/plasma technology. Lower-cost MP3 players would definitely benefit.

Even if this were implemented into a laptop configuration (with a lid instead of a rollable display), battery life could benefit greatly. Also, I’m sure this would be a huge boon for the medical equipment manufacturers.

Fun note: If you look at the pictures we included with this post, the top entry on the device is the eBook: “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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