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?
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.
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.
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.
CES 2012 brought some good news here.
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.
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.
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.
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.