E INK initially had plans to release the 3rd generation Kaleido color e-paper in the summer of 2021. These plans were scrubbed primarily due to the pandemic and their largest production factory in China was basically closed down for the past 12 months. Not only did Kaleido 3 production not occur, E INK did not even have enough regular black and white panels due to the EPD shortage. Industry sources have disclosed to Good e-Reader that Kaleido 3 will be available this summer and will likely be announced at SID Display Week 2022 in San Jose. This event occurs in early May, so we might finally see what the new technology brings to the table.
The first generation Kaleido e-paper took three years to develop and was released in 2020. Kaleido utilizes a new printed Color Filter Array (CFA) technology in conjunction with E Ink’s second generation, faster and brighter, Carta HD 1100. The technology can produce color for each pixel that is displayed on the screen. This includes red, green, blue, black or white. Colors can be combined to give you different colors or shades. The way it works is if you want light blue, blue will be toned down and white will be brighter. If you want orange, then yellow and red would be blended. It will ultimately display over 4,096 different color combinations at 100 PPI.
E INK recognized there were some fundamental problems with Kaleido, that needed to be addressed right away. After six months of development they released Kaleido 2 or it is now known as Kaleido Plus in January, 2021. It solved many of the issues we noticed with the first generation. The greyscale uniformity has been drastically improved, so the background will always be grey, instead of colors trying to mix together to create grey. It has better color accuracy, support for screens as small as 5.84 and as large as 10.3, and everywhere in between. Since they are focused on larger screens, this means they have solved how many colors can be displayed simultaneously and upped the PPI, for higher resolution content. They also augmented the regal waveform controllers for faster performance, in regards to displaying graphic novels, comics, manga and ebooks. The color gamut has been improved by over 3x and text is crisper.
Both versions of Kaleido, could only display 100 PPI and around 5000 color combinations. Some companies were able to increase the PPI, such as Bigme, which developed their own accumulated color optimization processing technology to display a wider gamut. Their 10.3 inch Carve Color could display 127 PPI, which looks better.
How can E INK refine their Kaleido technology in such as way, that it would encourage vendors like Pocketbook, Onyx Boox, Bigme, iFlytek, iReader and other companies to spend millions of dollars on securing new screens and manufacturing devices, in the hopes that customers will buy them. I believe E INK needs to do a couple of things. They need to add compatibility to the new Carta 1200 and Carta 1250 screens. These are found on the new Kobo Sage/Elipsa, Kindle Paperwhite 11th generation and second generation Fujitsu Quaderno A5/A4. With consumer e-readers, page turn speed and overall performance has been increased by around 20% and for e-notes you gain the same benefits, except latency with writing with the pen has been lowered significantly. I also believe E INK needs to double the PPI from 100 to 200, at the very least. Being able to display more than 4K colors would also be good. The increase would provide richer colors and a wider gamut, this would be beneficial for a new breed of dedicated e-readers, but also note taking devices. Currently e-notes using Kaleido Plus could only display 16-30 different colors on a palette, and users need more. PDF files would look better, cover art in books would be sublime, comics and manga would be excellent.
E INK needs to provide a reason to go with their color tech, rather than an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil 2 or Samsung S22 Ultra with the Samsung Pen. E INK relies on pushing their screen into the hands of OEM and manufacturers and secure million dollar deals with some of the biggest players in the e-reader industry. If they can release a viable product, that finally does not look washed out, it would only be a matter of time, before $100 million dollar orders are placed from an Amazon or Kobo for colored readers.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.