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.
Elizabeth, this does not reduce the number of windows you have to look at for a given app and a given task. It makes it possible to lay them out like sheets of paper, each of which can access multiple windows. I suggest checking out the video--this is tough to describe in words.
Think of them as a single large sheet of paper (say, C or D sized) that you could unfold or unroll. The individual sheets may still be connected via the cables, but they'd be unobtrusive, I would think.
Several science fiction authors (Robert Heinlein in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" comes to mind first) describe such displays. In Heinlein's the two characters "unroll a game board" to while away some time.
I really like this idea because it's intuitive and replicates what we are all used to doing. The only downside I see is that the system is presently tethered with quite a few cables. If they could reduce the system down to be wireless I think they would have a fantastic system. Of course, it means we'll all be going back to having an overly cluttered desk.
Ann, What is your take on the ability of a device like this to provide a good level of reliability? The idea is intriguing but it's difficult to foresee how it would handle the heavy stresses of daily use.
If I'm understanding this right, it should relieve the "eye crunch" of having to look at and consume myriad information adn files on a tablet screen...is that correct, Ann? That would be cool, though I'm not sure what to do with all of that intelligent paper!
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