A View from Katherine Bourzac
E Ink's Smart Snowboard
A snowboard prototype with a display on it.
This is not your mom’s snowboard. At the Society for Information Display this week, reflective-display company E Ink is exhibiting a number of prototypes that hint at future products. Definitely the most whimsical is a snowboard with a semi-circular black and white display showing a compass, clock, and weather predictions.
The idea is not to give grandparents nightmares about teens reading text messages while plowing down mountainsides, but to demonstrate future directions for the company’s flexible, rugged, low-power displays. E Ink, which is owned by Taiwanese company Prime View International, makes the black-and-white displays found in e-readers such as the Kindle. Their displays are also found in some cell phones and niche products.
The low power requirements for these displays—once the image changes, it doesn’t require any power to maintain it—and good readability under sunlight will, the company hopes, enable them to expand into a broader range of products. The company has started to get these displays in point-of-sale display ads in stores. Combined with static color images, the black-and-white E Ink backing flashing on and off makes an ad for detergent or athletic shoes appear animated.
Another fun was a music stand that would display the music instead of holding it up, with a foot pedal at the bottom to turn the page. In the latest generation of products, the displays now switch fast enough to write on the music, which you will need to do when the conductor yells at you to play louder in the sixth measure.