Imagine a device as small as your cell phone fully loaded with thousands of books and capable of blazing fast wireless connectivity, high speed news updates, 3G mobile phone capabilities, and email access. Now imagine this same tiny device as it unrolls to reveal a large 5-inch display. That’s what the folks at Polymer Vision, a Dutch spinoff of Phillips, imagined back in 2005 when the company displayed its prototype of the Readius eReader at the IFA Consumer Electronics Unlimited show in Berlin, Germany.
According to reports from the time period, the Readius concept was designed for mobile business professionals wanting a small eReader without compromising readability, performance, weight, or mobility. In short, this mobile device had to be small and portable, yet it had to maintain the readability of its larger counterparts. In addition, the prototype featured eInk, four gray levels, and a high contrast ratio on its 320 x 240 pixel display, making for easy reading (even in sunshine) and low battery consumption.
Like many concept cars unveiled at automotive shows, the Readius was never intended for mass production. Polymer Vision created the Readius to spark the imagination and to showcase its rollable displays for future use in mobile devices. Though conceptual at first, Polymer Vision later considered producing the Readius with news reports speculating that the Readius would be ready to hit the streets by Christmas 2006. This never happened. In 2008, the Readius once again piqued the imagination of consumer gadget lovers at the Mobile World Congress with rumors of a fall 2008 product launch. By mid-2009, hopes for the improbable device quickly faded as Polymer Vision filed for bankruptcy on July 7th.
Clearly, the Readius was ahead of its time. Though eReaders have been in existence for several years, it took Amazon’s release of the Kindle in 2007 to really capture the imagination of booklovers around the world. While a tiny eReader with a rollout display showed promise, it never made it from the prototype stage to the hands of readers.
However, hope is not lost. A few weeks after the bankruptcy filing, CNET News quoted Polymer Vision’s president, Karl McGoldrick, as saying that the company was looking for new investors to take the product to market. And find them he did. 12 million euros later, Polymer Vision was acquired by a Taiwanese company, Wistron, in the fall of 2009. Wistron’s chief of product planning, Brian Chong, recently announced that Wistron is developing a device featuring a similar Readius design with a flexible display that will launch in 2010.
While exact specifications have not been formally announced, the product specification found on Readius.com are impressive with features including:
• eReader capable of HTML, ASCII, PDF, and future ePub and re-flowable PDF formats
• E-mail reader supporting IMAP and POP3
• RSS reader supporting text and audio feeds
• Image viewer for viewing JPEG, PNG, BMP, and GIF images
• Included agenda viewer
• Polymer Vision’s rollable display
• 16 gray levels
• 320 x 240 QVGA resolution
• 5-inch diagonal display size (when unrolled)
• Microsoft Win CE operating system
• 128 MB RAM
• 256 MB internal storage
• High capacity MicroSD removable storage
• 30 hours of active reading per charge
• Bluetooth connectivity for accessories such as headsets
• USB connection
• USB mass storage
In addition to making for an extremely small eReader device, rollable displays are a thin and light as paper, unbreakable, and easy on the eyes. Since 2005, gadget lovers have been salivating over the Readius, anxiously awaiting the day when the pocket eReader with the pull-out display hits the shelves. False starts and bankruptcy killed the Readius before it ever had a chance. Now, with the acquisition of Polymer Vision by Wistron and confirmation by Brian Chong that a similar product is set to be launched in 2010, the Readius is once again showing signs of life.
Tags:Ahead of Its Time but Never Produced, the Readius EReader Now Shows Signs of Life