The Sleeping Giant's Sea Lion

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I've been trying to find some alternative ways to display my photography around my home. I tried one of those LCD digital picture frames, however I hated having this brightly lit picture frame at the corner of my eye when watching TV or working at my computer. I like the idea of a digital frame that can cycle through my photos, however I would prefer it not illuminate. Has anyone heard of an electronic ink or electronic paper picture frame? If they exist, have you tried one, and how did it perform?

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Unfortunately in early 2012 this still does not exist. I've added a more detailed answer below. –  dpollitt Mar 15 '12 at 20:47
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Aye, such a bummer. I know the technology (transflective screens) exists...it just hasn't been packaged up into a nice digital picture frame yet. –  jrista Mar 15 '12 at 21:54

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

None exist currently. There is one or two chinese made e-readers that have "photo frame" capabilities, (the kindle has this as well, but it is a hidden feature), but these are all limited to displaying the images in grayscale.

Color e-ink photoframes are pure speculation at this point.

If you are the DIY person, you could conceivably find one that is easily hackible (ie runs linux) and hooked up to a proximity sensor, so that only enables the backlight when someone is close by for more than a few seconds.

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Sadly, this is pretty much the correct answer. Hopefully it will change in the future...I would LOVE an epaper picture frame capable of 24bit color. –  jrista Sep 19 '10 at 18:52
    
What if you print the pictures and glue them to some kind of continuous paper display? I've seen such devices for advertising (They cycle printed announcements) Maybe there is one of these that can be easily modified to fit a nice frame... –  Jahaziel Jun 2 '11 at 17:15

As of March 2012 nothing like this exists in the color e-ink picture frame market. The Mirasol display made by Qualcomm is the only color e-ink display that I have heard of. I suppose one could try to tap into that reader to turn it into a picture frame style display, but from what I can tell they do not offer it prepackaged that way.

The original question did not say that color was a requirement, but from reading some of the posters comments it sounds like color is really the goal.

You could setup an Amazon Kindle(classic, touch, wifi, etc) as a photo viewer, and hack do exist to do this. Unfortunately for photography they aren't really great. The classic Kindle is only 4-level grayscale and the newer models are only 16. This isn't going to make any images look great, but it is acceptable for newspaper reading as the unit was designed.

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I came across a pretty funny blog post from someone who set up an old Sony reader as a digital picture frame. Key quote: Con: There's no color and everything looks like it's printed on wet newspaper. –  mattdm Mar 15 '12 at 21:12
    
@mattdm - I also saw that post in my research, but missed the funny con. Nice! –  dpollitt Mar 15 '12 at 21:40

VersaTile is getting ready to fundraising for an eInk Digital Picture frame on Kickstarter (you can follow the updates from @getversatile on Twitter ). I think that color eink technology (and black and white, for that matter) is finally to the point where you could conceivably make one of these frames work--200dpi is higher than the retina display on an ipad is pretty darn high.

VersaTile's eInk frame can last for months without a charge, is as thin as a Kindle and can be updated wirelessly--either manually or by linking it to your Facebook wall or your blog. You can also give a VersaTile frame to someone and update their pictures remotely--so your parents won't have out-of-date pictures of the grandkids on their wall for 10 years ;)

[added 12 November 2012] Full disclosure, the VersaTile project team showed me their product specs 3 weeks ago and asked if I would come on to help manage the project. I've browsed these forums previously and thought I remembered this post (or a similar one) on the topic. This is not intended to sound like an advertisement, so much as a readout of the specs that the team gave to me. I'm happy to remove it if necessary.

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P.S. If you could update this answer once the Kickstarter page is up, that would be awesome. –  mattdm Nov 3 '12 at 14:35
    
I agree, would be nice to have this updated when the Kickstarter page goes up. BTW, The iPad Retina is 264ppi, which is quite a bit higher than 200ppi in a picture frame (by 32%). That said, a 200ppi digital ink picture frame that uses transflective technology would be pretty awesome. I'd pick up a few, or one gigantic one (24x36" would do nicely!) :D Thanks for the tip. –  jrista Nov 4 '12 at 22:22
    
One other note: the iPad retina display is in fact 264ppi, which is higher than 200. And that's a 24-bit panel. Can you explain the technology you plan to use a little further? From looking at the eInk Triton technology used in the jetbook color, I don't think we're there yet. And that thing costs $500! I'd love for your idea/product to succeed, but I'm skeptical! –  mattdm Nov 11 '12 at 4:01
    
They're working with Mirasol, but I don't have a lot of details yet--the last I heard Mirasol wasn't selling their screens to the public (circa 2011) –  user13368 Nov 12 '12 at 22:29
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So, while this project has high hopes, looks like it's not going to happen. Kickstarter rejected the project, and Mirasol is stopping production of the screen they'd planned to use. –  mattdm Jan 24 '13 at 18:04

CES 2012 brought some good news here.

Kyobo Mirasol is an Android-based device with a 5.7" Qualcomm's Mirasol e-paper screen. A review finds it very demanding on viewing angle though.

Ectacto jetBook Color Deluxe, an e-reader with 9" color e-ink display, won the innovation award of CES 2012. The software is proprietary, but according to manufacturer, it does support JPEG format and has a "picture screensaver" (since July 2012). A review finds it sluggish, but that might not be too important when used as a photo frame. The review features a video comparison against the Mirasol.

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liquavista are probably closest to a commercial color e-ink display.

BUT it's probably not going to be 24bit color any time soon - it's difficult to think of a way of having an e-ink type display with enough gradations in brightness.

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This looks promising. Seems LiquaVista just manufactures the panels, but they don't appear to make any devices. Do you know of any picture frames that use this? –  jrista Sep 10 '10 at 18:54

Your best bet, until someone starts selling a color e-ink display with a decent contrast ratio, is to adjust the digital frame's brightness until it matches ambient light. You may be able to get a frame with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts.

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LG is launching a flexible e-paper in 2010, which includes a 19" black and white version, as well as a 9.7" 4096 color version. Not really the best from a color standpoint, but hopefully that will improve as the technology hits the main stream.

http://www.epapercentral.com/lg-debuts-flexible-epaper.htm

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