The flexible display fever isn’t stopping at smartphones, of course. Lenovo already made available its somewhat foldable ThinkPad X1 Fold but that’s still squarely within the realm of typical computers. Such flexible LCD and OLED panels aren’t the only game in town either and famed electronic paper giant E Ink is now trying to break new ground not just with colored ePaper or just flexible ePaper but a combination of the two that could finally turn wearables into technology you can literally wear, and not just on your wrist.
Wearables cover a broad category of technologies that so far have only been realized or popularized in smartwatches and fitness trackers. Part of the problem lies in thinking of practical uses for them if they don’t have displays. Another part of the problem is that it’s almost impossible with current technology to put traditional displays on things such as clothes and accessories.
Electronic paper or ePaper, both those from E Ink and other companies, have long offered an alternative since the display technology makes it easier to bend and deform screens. But even with flexible ePaper Displays or EPDs, E Ink has been, for the longest time, limited to displaying grayscale graphics that aren’t exactly fashionable. Along came colored EPDs, however, and now E Ink is partnering with flexible display maker Plastic Logic to put the two together.
The partnership takes Plastic Logic’s flexible, glass-free electrophoretic displays and E Ink’s Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP) to create what they claim is the world’s first flexible color displays. Just like any E Ink screen, the displays are ultra-low power, requiring a short burst of electricity only to change what’s on display. They are thinner than conventional color LCDs and their structure makes it possible to add them to things like jewelry or clothing.
It’s almost too easy to get excited over the announcement but the technology is hardly ready for consumer products. The first demonstration shows off a 2.1-inch flexible color EPD with a resolution of 240×146 pixels, just enough perhaps for patches on clothing. Even when they do become ready for mass production, these screens will most likely be provided for enterprise or professional customers before retail products are ever made, presuming they get that far.