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Touch Interface Coming to E Ink Displays

Epson and E Ink have announced the development of a new controller for E Ink’s electronic paper displays that will offer touchscreen-like capabilities. The development would mean that products using E Ink’s electronic paper displays—like the Sony Reader and Amazon.com’s Kindle—could offer onscreen interfaces like menus and buttons, and potentially even let users write notes directly on the display. The controller will be offered in production quantities by Epson; samples should be available next month, with production quantities available in August.

“Epson developed the powerful S1D13521 with E Ink to support new ePaper applications such as electronic newspapers, portable web browsers and industrial tablets,” said E Ink president and CEO Russ Wilcox, in a statement. “With the ability to address many screen regions simultaneously, future devices using this chip could offer a fast menu interface, simple animations, higher grayscale levels, and user input through typing and touch.”

Epson says the controller can handle up to 16 tasks in parallel, enabling things like real-time keyboard entry, on-screen navigation controls, menus, and annotations and sketches using a pen input device. The controller can manage screens up to 2,048 by 1,536 pixels (four times the resolution of current writeable devices like the iRex iLiad), and offers a 50 Hz refresh rate, so items appear on the screen essentially as fast as they can be drawn or written by a user.