Qualcomm Readies Next Generation Displays

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Qualcomm is gearing up to deliver both colour and video to the next generation of e-readers, with display technology that uses ambient light

Qualcomm MEMS Technologies is bringing both colour and video capabilities to the next generation of mobile devices, such as mobile phones and e-readers.

The mirasol displays are based on a reflective technology called interferometric modulation (IMOD), which enjoys significant energy savings over LCDs (liquid crystal displays). Indeed, Pike Research estimates that IMOD displays consume 33.7 percent less energy and emit 94 percent less carbon dioxide equivalents while “active” than an LCD display of the same dimensions.

“The displays use ambient light in order to create colour,” said marketing director Cheryl Goodman at Qualcomm MEMS Technologies. “It is a nature-based design and it is a significant innovation that no one has done before.”

The display works by reflecting light so that specific wavelengths interfere with each other to create colour. For example, the phenomenon that makes a butterfly’s wings shimmer is the same process used in Qualcomm’s mirasol displays.

“It is a reflective display, so the brighter the ambient light, the crisper the resolution is, as it is not fighting the backlight (like an LCD screen),” Goodman told eWEEK Europe UK. “It is also a greener experience, as LCDs are more toxic.”

She pointed out that the displays are already available in a mobile handset in China (the Hisense C108), while mobile phone maker LG is developing mirasol-enabled handsets. Goodman said that the combination of low power consumption and superb viewing quality in bright sunlight, means mirasol is attracting a great deal of interest from device manufacturers.

“Battery technology is really stagnant at the moment so you have to address the components in order to make them less power consuming,” Goodman told eWEEK Europe UK. She said that there would be a strong push on the eReader space going forward, and the company expects to make partnership announcements etc in Q1 of next year.

“Currently mirasol displays are already at a density of over 300 pixels per inch in small displays,” explained Jim Cathey, vice president of business development. “With e-reader devices we are able to push higher resolutions, which is a big advantage as it makes characters smoother and makes the reading experience much nicer.”

“Power consumption is considerably less than LCD display devices,” said Cathey. “The short of it is that a mobile phone handset using a mirasol display uses just 1 milliwatts of power, compared to LCD-based device that consumes between 240 to 500 milliwatts of power.”

“This is a huge advantage for the green angle, and it makes it easier for mobile phone designers, as they can utilise smaller batteries, and also install more features in the phone,” he said.

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There are already a number of e-reader devices from the likes of Barnes & Noble, Sony, Samsung, as well as Amazon.com with its Kindle line. Apple is also rumoured to be working on a device.

“However we are at the very beginning stages of the e-reader market,” said Cathey. “Currently e-readers don’t have video or colour, so they are waiting to be enabled with this technology, especially considering that the main interface between man and machine is the display.”


Author: Tom Jowitt
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