Amazon buys Liquavista screen technology from Samsung


— 6:00 AM on May 14, 2013

Amazon may have settled on the screen technology that will power the seemingly inevitable color Kindle reader. The Digital Reader reports that Samsung-owned screen technology firm Liquavista has been acquired by Amazon. There's no word on the terms of the deal or any future products that will use the Liquavista tech, but Amazon says it's "excited about the possibilities."

Liquavista's screen technology relies on a principle called electrowetting. Each pixel confines a tiny drop of colored oil. When voltage is applied to the oil, it flattens, covering the surface of the pixel. Removing to voltage causes the oil to ball up and retract to the corner of the pixel. 

Liquavista screen tech in color (left) and black and white (right)

According to Liquavista, these electrowetting pixels can be used with reflective, transmissive, and transflective displays. The reflective implementation likely destined for the Kindle performs "as vividly as high quality, color print." The screen is purportedly usable in direct sunlight, and the viewing angles are unlimited. As an added bonus, the tech is said to have low power consumption, especially when displaying dynamic content like video.

More details on Liquavista's tech are available in this whitepaper (PDF). The company's site also has several older videos of prototypes in action. The most recent clip is from 2010, the same year Liquavista was acquired by Samsung, so it's unclear what the technology looks like today. Apparently, it's not good enough for Samsung—or, perhaps, just not good enough for smartphones and tablets. Samsung doesn't appear to have an e-reader business, unless you count apps for its other mobile devices.

Amazon, of course, has multiple Kindle reader models in addition to a huge library of content for them. Adding color to the display would open the door to even more content, and it could really set apart the Kindle from rival readers.

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