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E-Ink moves a step closer to real paper

New screen allows users to annotate pages

A new electronic paper display could allow users to annotate pages in electronic books, make amendments to documents and erase parts of the page with as much ease as using a real pen and paper.

The screen, on show at the Display 2008 exhibition in Tokyo, was developed by E-Ink, Taiwan's Prime View International and Japan's Seiko Epson. It combines a conventional electronic paper display with a touch panel and a newly developed control chip.

The chip, from Seiko Epson, can control a screen with up to four times the resolution of current 'writable' e-paper devices such as iRex Technologies' iLiad.

Seiko Epson's chip also refreshes the display faster than the iLiad can, eliminating the slight lag between movement of the stylus and its effect on the screen.

The new chip shortens the update time so the screen can be refreshed 50 times per second. That means lines appear on the screen as they are drawn by the user and interpreted by the touch-panel interface, said Akihiro Furuya of Seiko Epson's semiconductor operations division, who demonstrated the system.

The prototype screen and controller board on show at the Display 2008 expo allowed users to draw on printed pages with a black, grey or white pen. With black text on a white page the white pen had the effect of acting as an eraser.

The chip supports a screen of up to 2,048x1,536 pixels and will be available commercially from August.

Electronic paper is often lauded for its high contrast that makes it appear close to that of real paper. Under development for many years the technology is now being used in commercial displays such as those in Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, Motorola's F3 mobile phone and numerous in-store advertising displays.

(Chiara Castañeda contributed to this report.)

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