Today's news about the 32" E-ink street signs in Singapore reminded me of a story I had been doggedly pursuing.
The signage announced today is based on an E-ink screen which was originally launched in 2014. Those screens sported a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1440, and were reportedly developed in cooperation with a signage manufacturer, GDS.
One might assume from the mention of a manufacturing partner that the screens would be turned into a commercial product which could be bought through the appropriate wholesaler, but it turns out that is not the case.
A couple months back I got it into my head that I wanted to buy, or at least borrow, one of these screens, and so I started bugging GDS for information on sales, distribution, specs, etc.
If you know where to look online you can buy the giant LCD signs found in AMC Theatres, Walmart, Popeyes, and other businesses, but the 32" E-ink screens just weren't listed with any of the wholesalers I found online.
And so I asked GDS. At first they gave me the run around, but eventually I wore them down and my emails were forwarded to a spokesperson who admitted that the 32" screen was less a commercial product than an ongoing project in the design and development workshop.
"Unfortunately, the E-ink product is not a production unit, so samples are not available and we don’t have finished products in distribution," I was told by email. "It is a 'skunkworks' type product that is currently under development for a number of projects. The solar powered unit that we installed with the City of Boston was a showcase installation to show the capabilities."
Yes, in the two years since this screen was announced, no one has used this screen in a commercial product.
Do you know all of the photos of the display units at trade shows, the ones which showed a finished monitor with case, screen, and mounting hardware? They are essentially vaporware. They were all promise, and no delivery, or all hat, and no cattle.
And that is a shame because a 32" monitor based on one of these screens could make a useful alternative to the Dasung Paperlike.
The Paperlike is a one-of-a-kind monitor which costs $700 to $1000 and features a 13.3" E-ink screen. A 32" screen would be about six times as large, enabling you to show a lot more work at one time.
Sure, that larger monitor would cost at least twice as much as a Paperlike, that could be worth it for those who have computer vision syndrome, the class of medical conditions which prevent users from looking at LCD screens.
A 32" E-ink monitor would let them finally have the same massive monitor setup many geeks enjoy - only without the migraines. And frankly, the rest of us could benefit from this monitor as well.
Don't you think you spend too much time staring into a bright screen?
This monitor could have been a solution.