According to the Human Media Lab website, the PaperTab "emulates the natural handling of multiple sheets of paper by combining thin-film display, thin-film input and computing technologies through intuitive interaction design." PaperTabs "keep track of their location relative to each other" and their user. That seems like some kind of proximity sensor, as does the description of distance determining a PaperTab's active (full window) or inactive (icon) status.
"The location of each PaperTab is tracked on a desk using an electromagnetic tracker," according to the narration on the video. That's an interesting idea. Locational electromagnetic tracking systems are used in military applications and computer-assisted surgery, as well as kinematic research, such as motion tracking. I still don't get how the data moves from one PaperTab to another, and the consortium is not saying. What's hidden in the video is where users plug in all the PaperTabs under the desk. Perthaps that's some kind of communication and/or processing hub.
The PaperTabs can file and display thousands of paper documents, and the displays use E-ink, so they use very low power. The version used in the demos has a 150ppi screen pixel density displaying 16 levels of grays.
I am impressed by the work Plastic Logic is doing. I just wish it would find a manufacturing partner, so we can start using this totally cool, nifty technology sooner rather than later.
DBrunermer, as we mentioned in the story, it's not clear how data is being transferred between one window and another. Since we can't see under the table, it's possible that there's some kind of hub where all the cables go where they communicate with each other, or it's possible there's some kind of wireless communication, possibly facilitated by electromagnetic tracking.
I agree it looks interesting, but I disagree on the company's definition of 'Intuitive'. Bending a page backward to flip pages is not really obvious, nor is folding / dog-earing for fast forward and reverse on video. But I digress.
The movie makes it seem like the desk is an important part of this invention. As in, it's the desk that knows where the pages are in relation to each other, not the paper itself. To me, that's a huge limitation. That's not portable, even a little bit. I think instead they should make an electronic binding, like a regular book, with all interconnects in the 'spline', and the CPUs/WiFi in the front or back 'cover'. It could probably be as think as two kindles, and then be useful and portable. But this is an interesting device, all in all.
In other words. The advantage of this system is about the same as having a tablet screen that is 3 feet by 4 feet (roughly the size of a desktop). Honestly, I think I would prefer the latter. Especially if I could roll it up and take it with me.
The advantages are being able to lay out documents on a table, as we can do when they're made of paper, instead of having to look at everything sequentially on one screen. I have often wished to be able to do this, especially with long technical documents. Anyone who writes or does hands-on editing of such documents--words or drawings--could appreciate this, as could an R&D team that collaborates on same.
Most of the new 3D printers and 3D printing technologies in this crop are breaking some boundaries, whether it's build volume-per-dollar ratios, multimaterials printing techniques, or new materials types.
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