Screens from former OLPC CTO now in devices

Pixel Qi will also release a DIY kit soon for people to mod their own netbooks

Mary Lou Jepsen and her team at start-up Pixel Qi have their display-screen technology in several products being shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and plan to put a DIY (do it yourself) screen kit on the market early this year.

Jepsen, formerly the head of Intel's display division and chief technology officer at One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), has focused on lowering the battery drain by LCD screens and making them useful as e-readers in addition to normal computer use.

The company's first screen, at 10.1-inches, is being displayed by several companies at CES, including in a multi-touch tablet PC from Notion Ink Design Labs called the Smartpad.

Pixel Qi also hopes to make the screen, called 3qi, available to anyone with some engineering savvy who wants to use its DIY kit to switch out their own netbook screen or try to create their own computer.

"We just think it's important to give everyone an opportunity to innovate, especially [considering] our roots at One Laptop Per Child," Jepsen said in an interview at CES, "so we'll be announcing soon a way people can just buy the screens and mod their own notebooks or make their own systems."

Pixel Qi hopes to have DIY kits out by the end of the first quarter or early in the second quarter of this year, she said.

Jepsen's goal is to extend the battery life of laptops to 20 to 40 hours by lowering power consumption by the display screen. She said production of the new screens will ramp up quickly in coming months.

The initial 10.1-inch screen uses LCD technology so it matches current manufacturing procedures, yet costs less to make than traditional LCDs and uses about a tenth of the power.

The screens are designed so people can read them in direct sunlight, turn off the LED backlight to view black and white text, like an e-reader, and offer a fully saturated HDTV-quality color mode for video.

Pixel Qi used Lenovo Ideapad netbooks at their CES suite to show off the black-and-white mode because the LED backlight on the Ideapad can be turned off, a feature few netbooks offer.

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