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.
This does seem like a cool step in this technology. It certainly employs a unique interface for common tasks. I'm reminded of all the developments that have evolved from keyboard, to mouse, to touch-screen for "conventional" computers. This form factor has created a whole new level of potential user interactions which will likely develop as the technology does. Very interesting - thanks for the article and the video.
bobjengr, glad you enjoyed seeing this. I totally agree about moving items from one tab to another being the coolest part--and the hardest to explain. So far, this is described as a concept and a prototype, and neither the company--or Queen's U--has indicated that they intend to develop it commercially. But I hope they do.
Good point, Scott. The mouse itself was a huge step in the direction of making computers accessible to non-engineers, as well as widening their use for everyone. This could be seen as another paradigm breaker in user interfaces.
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