popSlate was launched on crowd funding site Indigogo at the end of November and in a little over a week it successfully reached its goal of $150,000. What is it? Well if you haven’t heard already (coverage has been extensive) it’s an iPhone 5 cover ($100) that adds a 4” e-ink screen to the back of your iPhone. Take a look at the video below but bear in mind this is a pitch and may differ in performance from the finished product (there has been some speculation that the refresh rate of e-Ink would be nowhere near as fast as it appears in this video) :
Other advantages aside from being able to personalise your iPhone cover with photos of your dog come from the unique properties of e-ink technology. These include its low power consumption (only uses power to refresh the image); easily viewable in bright sunlight and the ability to display bar-codes that can be read by traditional laser bar-code scanners.
This final point was exploited a few months back by another successful crowd funded unholy union between iPhone and e-ink the Geode. Have a look at its kick-starter page to see what a really clever product the Geode is.. however considering the iPhone battery life you could be potentially setting yourself up for major problems (all your eggs in one basket comes to mind).
Finally we have the Pebble. The Pebble is different from those previously mentioned for two significant reasons. Firstly it doesn’t discriminate; you can get a Pebble for Android as well as iPhone. Secondly it comes in the form of an e-ink display for your wrists, like a watch, remember them? In spring of this year the designers of the Pebble started their KickStarter campaign to raise a modest $100,000; they rose over $10,000,000. Their device is basically an e-ink display that connects to your smart phone using Bluetooth. You can install various apps on it allowing you to receive messages, control your music, access GPS information (useful for running or as a cycling computer) as well as.. telling the time. They also have a software development kit (SDK) that allows tech minded people to develop their own apps.
If nothing else all three of these products prove that there is a considerable market for e-ink smart phone accessories but what do they have to do with assistive technology? Well the answer to that I suppose is that in their current form not a lot but perhaps a second e-ink display could serve an AT purpose?
Maybe an e-ink display on a wheelchair tray that displays incoming messages or a map/directions? An e-ink display on the back of an iPad that is being used as a communication device (one of the features that distinguished the Lightwrighter from other communication devices was it second screen that allowed people to read the message being produced as well a hearing them). Could an e-ink display be made serve the same purpose on a tablet or smart phone?
Anybody got any other ideas?