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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.