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.
Happy to see I'm not the only one confused by the value of this technology...again, it's probably why it's a prototype! Maybe feedback will convince the company to change the design a bit or come up with more of a value proposition. I think it was certainly worthwhile for Ann to cover, though, as it has us all scratching our heads over it! And it shows people thinking of new ways to extend the function of tablets, which are quickly becoming ubiquitous.
Ann, forgive me if I missed this in the article, but if this went into production and I wanted to buy one, would I be able to choose how many PaperTabs I wanted or is there a set amount? Does it come with a certain number and then you can add to it? Or, am getting ahead of myself here?
This devices seems like a bit of a stretch, considering toggling screens in a regular tablet (iPad, etc.) is fairly simple. Isn't the point of a tablet the portability factor? Am I missing something?
Al, the possible lack of connector strength is a really good point. We've seen several issues before with lack of connector strength. I would guess that the issues described in this article on mobile medical connectors would be equally applicable here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=255424
Thanks, Ann. The technology is definitely interesting but between the flexible tablet and connector interfaces, I guess I'm somewhat skeptical it will emerge given the competition already in the marketplace. Thanks.
Good question, Al. E-paper display technologies have been around for several years, at least in a prototype stage like this one. The flexible plastic display substrates and flexible plastic electronics are surprisingly sturdy, from what I saw years back when covering the subject. Some are being used now in flexible sports and health monitoring "watches", which sounds like at least some of these materials must be pretty rugged.
I wonder if they would survive the dropped stapler test? It's an interesting technology. It looks like they've put quite a bit of thought into it. The ability to transfer data from one page to another by touching them together is cool. Unfortunately, I don't see these helping most people get their work done. I would like to see a Pen computer with a roll-up screen. Something about the size of a Sharpie with a touch screen that is semi-rigid when unrolled. Maybe someday soon.
OK, so I watched the video and this still seems rather complicated! Maybe it's just something you have to use to understand...still seems like there is a little bit too much of a "paper" trail for this to be practical...but that's just an opinion! It is just a prototype, after all, so perhaps it will be a bit more streamlined by the time it's ready for commercial release. Still quite interesting to see what's being hatched by clever minds!
Ah, OK, Ann, I will take your advice! It did seem like a difficult thing to describe but you did a very good job of it anyway. Still sounds quite intriguing; I am sure the video will answer my remaining questions.
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