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First Mobile Device with Rollable Display 78

TC writes "Telecom Italia and Polymer Vision today [February 5, 2007] announced an agreement which will see the leading operator of the Italian mobile industry and the pioneers of the rollable display industry join to develop and launch the world's first rollable display enabled mobile device to market in 2007. After seven years of gestation it seems that E Ink is coming of age."
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First Mobile Device with Rollable Display

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  • by Apocalypse111 ( 597674 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:45AM (#17904146) Journal
    7 years of gestation, and its suddenly coming of age? What happened to childhood? These new technologies grow up so fast... Hey! Damn kids! Get off my lawn!
    • It's:

      "Hey! Damn Kids! Get off my blog!"
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @11:18AM (#17904614) Homepage Journal
      I believe that the poster meant to say, "Seven years after I noticed it..."

      Electronic Paper [] was invented at Xerox in the 1970's. It's a LOT older than seven years. The only reason why people are noticing it is that advances in electronics are slowly making it practical.

      It's a bit like Plasma displays. The stock market used a massive monochrome unit for decades before consumers jumped on "this newfangled Plasma TV thingy!"
      • What do you mean by "monochrome"? Do individual plasma cells support multiple hues?

        CRTs and LCDs have three different cells per pixel, one each for red, green and blue. Really old CRTs and LCDs only had one cell per pixel, for grayscale.
        • What do you mean by "monochrome"?

          Monochrome. As in, the display only shows one color. (Usually orange.) You may remember back when the stock exchanges used the large orage display boards rather than their nifty, giant color screens?

          Do individual plasma cells support multiple hues?

          Plasma displays can be built to provide differing levels of Red, Green, and Blue. However, the simplest form of the technology is to have each plasma cell either on or off.

          CRTs and LCDs have three different cells per pixel, one e

        • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by plover ( 150551 ) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @12:28PM (#17905758) Homepage Journal

          Really old CRTs and LCDs only had one cell per pixel, for grayscale.

          No, Fairly old CRTs and LCDs only had one cell per pixel, for grayscale. Really old LCDs had seven segments per digit. Really old CRTs were character oriented, and you had no control over individual pixels (back when ASCII art was the height of computer graphics.) Ancient CRTs were vector oriented storage scopes, allowing you to draw lines, but not erase them without erasing the entire display.

          You kids these days and your fancy bitmapped screens.

          • True. But I was limiting myself to the PC era, as most people around here aren't even cognizant of computer technology spanning that.
          • You had storage tube displays? We would have loved to have storage tube displays... we had to draw our characters on a standard oscilloscope screen by using the computer's DAC channels to directly control the deflection of the scope.

            You kids and your fancy vector storage scopes.
  • Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:45AM (#17904152)
    This is a really neat device. It's too bad the company is so stupid.

    It's completely locked down by DRM. The ONLY books it'll read have to be bought from them.

    It's only marketed in Italy. Holy cow... That's awful short-sighted.

    The webpage there is also riddled with stupid comments like 'display larger than the handset itself' ... Paradox? No, just stupidity. They mean larger than the handheld when in storage form.
    • Its only marketed in Italy? Hows that awfully short sighted?

      The first release of a product, designed in europe, and they go for a european carrier? No surprises there. Not totally sure why they've chosen italy, but best guesses are that Italy is a major user of mobile technology (greatest number of sms per capita in europe?), and possibly TIM were more willing to roll with the technology than other carriers.

      no doubt it will spread throughout europe/rest of the world in due course.

      I'll give you that DRM i
      • I don't think Italy is that hot on mobiles tbh - you quickly lose coverage if you wander down south. I'd think a better bet would be France or the UK.
    • Re:Too bad. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @11:01AM (#17904376) Homepage
      Actually, I like that it's only marketed in Italy. That means someone could (and should) get one, bring it to the states, reverse-engineer the DRM off of it, and publish a HOWTO so we can all use these things to access whatever books we want. If telecom isn't selling the thing here, I don't think you can SLAPP that kind of activity down. (IANAL, just thinking aloud)
    • Re:Too bad. (Score:4, Funny)

      by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @11:18AM (#17904618)
      A successful new technology requires at least three companies to go bankrupt first. Counting 1...
    • It means that they will likely sell the marketing rights to other companies for sales outside Italy. The bet is they will make loads of cash with that innovation which will help fund the next world cup champions.
    • Aladrin wrote as part of a post:

      It's completely locked down by DRM. The ONLY books it'll read have to be bought from them.

      This has been the thing that has sunk most e-book readers. One of the things that I require before purchasing an e-book reader is that I can put my own content on it, not just purchased content from a specific publisher.

      I don't have a problem with an e-book reader having its own format, as long as it supports other open formats too. For example, in my experience HTML works well as

  • by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:49AM (#17904198) Homepage Journal
    so opposed to the last x years where these kinds of devices have been not available, they are now ... not available?
    • Nah, they are just waiting for Steve Jobs to show them how to make it insanely great and find a market for them
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by colinbrash ( 938368 )
      so opposed to the last x years where these kinds of devices have been not available, they are now ... not available?

      Yeah, but they are almoster available!
  • Software (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hiween ( 1057790 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:49AM (#17904202)
    I wonder about the software in the device. From the article I understand that content "can be delivered and bought through TIMs mobile network via a regular SIM Card within the device". This may screw up the device, not only because the provider can ask for insane amount of money for the service, but because it may not have what I want to read. I guess most popular newspapers will be there, but what about PDFs I download from the net?, what if I have a Safari account that allows me to download books in PDF format?
  • Too many instances! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AikonMGB ( 1013995 )

    I don't know about you, but after reading the first two paragraphs my brain started to asplode...

    declare @num int
    SELECT @num = count(1) FROM article WHERE text LIKE '%rollable display%'

    Arithmetic overflow error converting expression to data type int.

    On a more serious note, its about time.. although the article is rather scant on details, the device looks like a quite acceptable first-generation portable information booklet. Next time I want to see the display actually roll up into a cylinder, with

    • maybe some kind of electro-sensitive memory strands that can make it stiff or pliable on demand?

      I'm sure I heard a joke about something similar to that in the days before viagra.
      Or was that an inflation device?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 )
      How about, next time I'd like to see one that I can buy. Leave the complicated extra advances for a couple more generations after that.
    • Next time I want to see the display actually roll up into a cylinder

      Yes! I want to carry my information wrapped around a cylinder. Then writing will truly have come full circle.

      Actually, now that I think about it, there was an earlier form of writing than scrolls: writing on a "tablet" with a "stylus." However, this was before the invention of pockets.
  • by danpsmith ( 922127 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:50AM (#17904216)
    Everyone seems to be complaining about the company involved, but I see this as a revolutionary development. The problem I've always had with tiny devices is tiny screens. It's great to have the ability to surf the web on your phone, but why bother when you got a 1"x1" little screen and have to squint the whole time. Watching movies on a 1.5"LCD just isn't really that attractive. With something like this applied more in the industry you could fold out your display when you are sitting about, fold it up when you need to move and never miss a step. Could be a great development for lots of mobile uses. Even if this model and company don't pan out, as long as the product makes it to market and wows a couple of people, it could indicate a trend that could expand into further possibilities, which is always a good thing.
    • by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:55AM (#17904290) Journal
      You won't be able to watch a movie on something like this. Refresh rates for E-Ink are on the order of a second. Fine for reading though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
        Right, we have to wait for flexible OLED to get enough longetivity to be useful for a frequent-use display before we can have that. OLED also uses very little power and flexible displays have been demonstrated, although I don't think any of them have been this flexible yet.
    • With something like this applied more in the industry you could fold out your display when you are sitting about, fold it up when you need to move and never miss a step...
      ...That's great. I'm looking forward to toilet e-paper.
    • Small screens are a problem, but I think some other technologies might be more promising. There are a number of miniature projective systems on they way, either designed to project images onto surfaces or into the eye.

      e.g. [] []
      Then again, the Virtual Retinal Display has been "on the way" for more than 10 years. Hopefully lightblueoptics will move to market more quickly.
  • Cool, but .... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Looks to be a very cool device. As far as I'm concerned though, it needs two additional things to make me want to purchase it over the iphone. First is the most obvious I think, which is color. Heck, I might even live with a 256 grey scale, but color is a definite must. Second, is a way to either show part of the display while in the closed position or to have a secondary display. Having a second display would rock as you could separate the phone functions from it's other duties, or place controls on t
  • It already happened (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:52AM (#17904254) Journal
    E-Ink finally coming of age? I just finished reading the new Dan Simmons novel on my E-Ink Sony Reader, thank you very much.
    • E-Ink finally coming of age? I just finished reading the new Dan Simmons novel on my E-Ink Sony Reader, thank you very much.

      I'm curious why you bought one. (Assuming of course, you paid money for it) The price tag is on the order of $350.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I have the money, and did a lot of reading on my Ebookwise 1150. I thought the nicer display would be worth it. The software is the only downside, but as long as you've got a tool that can convert any format into rtf, it's good enough. If you're interested in something cheaper, then by all means, the Ebookwise is the way to go. The LCD screen isn't all that bad.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        $350 is only about 20 trade paperbacks / cheap hardcovers or 35 paperbacks. With the entire project gutenburg collection available for free (and the device unDRMed enough that Sony will let you read .rtf files (nicely) or .pdf files (badly) on it), I figured that I could "make" my money back, or at least get my money's worth. Love Baen's science fiction, and it is around $9 for a paperback, but $3-4 for the eBooks if you buy them in WebScriptions form (plus they have 50-60 books for free). Never liked re
    • E-Ink finally coming of age? I just finished reading the new Dan Simmons novel on my E-Ink Sony Reader, thank you very much.

      Damn, dude, bragging about your Sony purchase on Slashdot?

      What are you doing tomorrow, strutting through Harlem with you new Klan costume?
    • I heard the pdf conversion suck on this. I would love your insight. Do you need windows software to transfer and convert the pdf? Or does the reader convert the pdf? I've seen this device in the store and it looks great, but I assume the books that were on there were not from a pdf file.
      • It displays pdfs natively. Which is the problem, actually. The only readable pdfs are ones formatted with the correct screen size. So you'll need pdf authoring and conversion software. Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat, etc. It's really not worth it for pdfs.
        • Dang. At least they are getting close. I'm thinking of trying it anyway if I can scrounge up enough money. Thanks for the reply.
  • Specs not impressive (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:57AM (#17904310)
    From the companys website: cifications/Index.html []

    Current Specifications
    - Contrast: 10:1.
    - White reflectance: 35%-40%
    - Switching time: 0,5-1s
    - Optimum refresh rate: 50 Hz
    - Number of pixels: 240 x 320 (quarter VGA - 4.8")
    - Rolling radius: 0.75 cm
    • Wow, those are some crappy specs. The only one that bothers me in the long run, though, is the refresh rate. A persistent display technology not requiring constant refreshes would hopefully save a lot of power.

      I do wonder what conditions that contrast ratio was measured under? LCDs may have awesome contrast ratios in the dark, but in sunlight, not so much.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        E-paper doesn't emit light, it looks a lot like glossy paper from what I've seen. So in total darkness the contrast sucks ;)
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I thought one of the big advantages of E-Ink is that it doesn't have to be refreshed?

    • 240x320? That's just nasty. It should be at least 150dpi, preferably 200. Switching time is no big deal, though the refresh rate seems a bit silly (50hz refresh on a device which takes can only actually refresh at 2hz?).
      • Cut them some slack. Rollable e-ink displays are still kinda new. Or would you have been one of those people who complained that the Model T didn't get 60 miles of the gallon and have a top speed of 100 MPH?
    • by JM78 ( 1042206 )
      Cause compared to all those other displays just like it this one sucks? Bit early to ask it to be HD capable don't ya think? It's still a push forward no matter how you slice it - LCD used to 'suck' too.
    • by renoX ( 11677 )
      Thanks for the specifications, they're interesting:
      > Switching time: 0,5-1s
      Not very good, it's too long to wait between switching pages.

      >- Rolling radius: 0.75 cm
      Which means that a roll has a diameter of 1.5cm, and you have to add the casing thickness to have the height of the reader so it should be around 2cm, a bit thick but reasonable.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:57AM (#17904316) Homepage Journal

    Wow, that blurb was... well...

    It's just like the twenty or so folks who have "put in their name to start an exploratory committee to determine the chances of success in an election bid to become the next President of the United States..."

    It's all just hot air and vapor.

  • ...OLED? And is OLED ever even going to actually come out?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *
      Considering that many cell phones and digital cameras use OLED displays, I'd say they've been out for a little while now.
      • ah...didn't realize it's that widespread already. How about computer and television displays - will that likely ever surface? Haven't heard much in the media.
        • How about computer and television displays - will that likely ever surface?
          Unlikely. At least anytime in the near-term. OLED technology is preferred in environments where small size, low power consumption, and low usage are valued. Under current technology, full size screens would die far too quickly. In addition, traditional LCD technology has been improving at a rapid pace.
    • My girlfriends cellular device has an exterior OLED display.
      It's an LG phone... not sure which one, though. I'm at work. All I know is it comes in red and black. It looks pretty sleek, though.
      • I have an LG LX350 that has an external OLED display, not red and black though.. Black exterior with a silver interior (clamshell).. Only thing that bothers me about it is the refresh rate is rather low, but I don't know if thats the phone or the display.. If I move the display I can see a distinct flashing of it. Overall though a neat tiny little display..
    • And is OLED ever even going to actually come out?

      Mr. Van Winkle? Is that you?
  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @11:11AM (#17904506) Journal
    The current issue of IEEE Spectrum [] magazine has a piece [] giving an overview of current E-Ink-based mobile displays, particularly how they relate to newspaper distribution. They don't mention this new product specifically, but hold out the notion of flexible E-Ink displays as near-future possibilities.
  • Nature's End (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @11:32AM (#17904800) Homepage Journal
    Score another one for sci-fi. The first reference to this kind of technology I came into was a book called "Nature's End" [] by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka which was published in 1986. The protagonist used a rolled-up display on a portable computer called an IBM "AXE" if I remember correctly (was a long time ago).

    Reading through the book summary today gives me something of a deja-vu (on the heels of the UN report on the environment):

    "The authors of the best seller ... depict in powerful detail a 21st-century Earth with devastated environment and rampant overpopulation. A rich and comfortable elite coexists with malnourished, pitiful billions, "the victim generation." The rich enjoy youth preservation treatments and other biomedical wonders while the rest just endure the toxicity and pollution."

    The book was set in 2025. A deal today at $0.20!

    • It's probably in a few books. I remember this shown as the cellphone of the near future on TV in Earth:Final Conflict(mm. 1996 or so). Second was Red Planet(2000) where this roll-out was a PDA and mapping device. I'm supposing it was easy to make the effect work in film and TV CGI but producing a tough, flexible screen is another matter.
  • More fuel... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Falladir ( 1026636 )
    "While smaller than a typical mobile phone..."

    Does this claim look foolish to anyone? Sure, this is smaller than the Nokia "brick" phones we used to carry around in the late 90s. I'm not living in any kind of wealthy community, and practically all the cell phones flip open. They're significantly smaller than the device pictured in the article
  • First we had to re-purchase all our LP and cassete music as CDs. At least they forgot to DRM it.
    Then we had to re-purchase all our VHS videos as DVDs. At least they didn't try hard to DRM it.
    Soon we'll have to re-purchase all our books in some E-ink format. Three guesses on how weak the DRM will be this time.
    Not to mention the joy of scanning your "very out of print" books - one page at a time.
    There's only small comfort knowing someone in Apple regrets the day he wasted "iBook" on a laptop line.
  • Now all we need is our flying cars!
  • Why does the rest of the device have to be as big as a large cellphone? Why can't those electronics fit into the same volume, but in a longer tube, like a magic wand, with mediaplayer and "open" controls along the side, and Bluetooth? That would fit in any pocket, and let a much larger area display roll out from the longer edge. Maybe even folded over in half (or more plies) to roll out, then fold out from a short rod into a large area.

    Americans used to joke that the Soviets could build a briefcase nuke - b
  • I can see it now E-ink TP you can ready your stocks then wipe your a$$ with it after.
  • Yawn... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @03:05PM (#17908638) Homepage Journal
    Waiting for a ball-point pen sized device with one of these. [] Bah. Roll-out display. That's so 20th century thinking...
  • Papyrus -> Scrolls -> Vellum -> Paper -> Carbon paper -> Electronic printouts -> Electronic displays -> EInk -> Rollable Scrolls

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.