PixelQi puts three displays in one

The former CTO of One Laptop Per Child touts her new company's power-efficient, outdoor-readable display for laptops.

SAN JOSE, Calif--You have to be able to see a screen before you can use multitouch gestures on it.

Mary Lou Jepsen PixelQi
Mary Lou Jepsen holds an OLPC at a green gadgets conference last year. Martin LaMonica/CNET

Here at the Interactive Displays 2009 conference, while the rest of the budding touch-screen industry talks about the best way to incorporate multitouch into expensive handheld gadgets, Mary Lou Jepsen is working on how to make computer displays readable in the sunlight--on the cheap.

Jepsen--co-founder of One Laptop Per Child--is now heading up display start-up PixelQi, which makes low-cost, highly efficient displays for low-cost laptops like the XO from OLPC.

"The future of portables is all about the screen," she said. Jepsen believes the ideal display for a device is one that communicates directly with the motherboard, which PixelQi is working on. "Think of screen like a chip on the motherboard: it can massively lower power consumption and (increase) battery life and create a much better visual experience."

Her main concern is computers that get shipped to children in the developing world, where laptops that don't take a lot of power, and are readable in sunlight are "must haves." Eventually they should incorporate the best touch and multitouch technology.

"The screens shouldn't be TVs," she said.

Her company's first product, 3Qi, arrives in the next month. It's, as she puts it, three different kinds of displays as one: a low-power black and white mode, an e-paper mode, and a high-resolution color LCD TV mode.