PaperTab goes on show as flexible paper-thin tablet (w/ video)

Jan 09, 2013 by Nancy Owano report
School of Computing professor Roel Vertegaal is working with Intel and Plastic Logic to develop a paper-thin, flexible computer tablet.

(Phys.org)—Call it the paper tablet. Or flexible e-paper touchscreen. Or an all in one computing experience made up of a cluster of papery, tablet screens, each behaving like an app. However you look at the PaperTab, it is difficult to avoid the word "revolutionary," and the prototype was Tuesday's talk at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. PaperTab is,a 10.7 inch, e-ink, flexible touchscreen display powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. The tablet looks and feels like a sheet of paper. Its "bendiness" delivers durability and also interactions, as by bending the sides, one can flip through pages.

When a PaperTab is placed outside of reaching distance it reverts to a thumbnail overview of a document, as one would see icons on a PC. Then, when picked up or touched, the PaperTab returns to a full screen page view. The concept of a PaperTab as not just a bendable screen but a device that promises a full computer experience becomes clear in the device's position awareness of other PaperTabs. Multiple PaperTabs work with each other. Pushing two PaperTabs together results in an extended app across the two screens. A user can move pictures between screens. Tapping one tablet with content can send it to a waiting document in another.

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The user can send a photo by tapping one PaperTab showing a draft e-mail with the other PaperTab showing the photo. The photo is then automatically attached to the draft e-mail. The email is sent either by placing the PaperTab in an out tray or by bending the top corner of the display, according to a PaperTab release.

The concept extends to having numerous PaperTabs on a table with each tablet representing a single app—browser, e-mail, calculator—and in turn becoming one's computer.

The collaborative thinkers behind the PaperTab are a team at Canada's Queen's University who worked on it in collaboration with Intel Labs and Plastic Logic . The latter is a plastic electronics company founded by researchers at Cambridge University. Plastic Logic developed the plastic transistor technology in PaperTab.

"Using several PaperTabs makes it much easier to work with multiple documents," said Roel Vertegaal, Director of Queen's University's Human Media Lab.

This is a prototype, nonetheless, with no word on when it might be brought to commercialization. Whether this might materialize in the form of a flexible tablet screen or a full-blown new computing paradigm is not certain. An Intel researcher, though, is fully optimistic: "Within five to ten years, most computers, from ultra-notebooks to tablets, will look and feel just like these sheets of printed color paper," said Ryan Brotman, Research Scientist at Intel.

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User comments : 12

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antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 09, 2013
Now THAT I'd buy.
Add a WiFi/Bluetooth chip to each and a small battery to get rid of the connections and you have a new killer tech.
Whydening Gyre
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 09, 2013
Agreed, phys. Using wireless power xmission would make it even cooler. You could make sort of a protective shell that both powers and communicates and.... Wait - it might look like a book!
minerva42
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
Most of what's demonstrated in this is specific-use software. I'm curious what the tech can do regarding playing videos, page refresh rate, typing speed...
be4r
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
Most of what's demonstrated in this is specific-use software. I'm curious what the tech can do regarding playing videos, page refresh rate, typing speed...


Likely similar to the current kindle touch, which uses the same e-ink technology. Although I believe the same company is also working on flexible LCD screens.
Claudius
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 09, 2013
They look cheap, disposable. I can't figure out why I would prefer a flexible display over a rigid one. They are going to have to come up with something to lure me away from rigid displays, and it is hard to imagine what that could be.
efnolasco
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
It all depends on the price I wouldn't pay over 100 .
Daxster1995
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
They look cheap, disposable. I can't figure out why I would prefer a flexible display over a rigid one. They are going to have to come up with something to lure me away from rigid displays, and it is hard to imagine what that could be.


They probably look cheap now because they're prototypes. And yes, I think that eventually these types of displays WILL be disposable, because they will become so incredibly cheap you could just throw them away like a sheet of paper.
Claudius
1 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2013
So when I get my Happy Meal at McD's, there will be a flexible sheet on the tray with interactive content. When I get done I throw out the trash and put the tray back on the stack. Then I go home and use my computer with the rigid display.

I have a hard time to see this happening, and I still need a reason why I would want a flexible display when the rigid ones work so much better.
monger
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
Claudius,
One reason to have a bendable display is so that you can toss it in your bag and not worry about it breaking. Or drop it off a building for that matter. Another is that you can fold these displays and fit them into smaller spaces. I've been waiting for a tablet that could be folded and fit in my pocket. Granted, that could be a folding rigid screen or a bendable one. Another reason is that these plastic displays are presumably much lighter than the glass ones.
Shifty0x88
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2013
If I could roll that up and put it in my pocket, well then, done! I'm all in. Oh, and like someone else said, I wouldn't pay more then 100 for that, especially since it seems like you need more then 1 just to get something done.

Interesting prototype though!
Jonseer
3 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013
They look cheap, disposable. I can't figure out why I would prefer a flexible display over a rigid one. They are going to have to come up with something to lure me away from rigid displays, and it is hard to imagine what that could be.


More than likely should this come to fruition in some way, they wouldn't try to convince people with your mindset to change your habits any more than cellphone makers have made it a point to target the senior market.

For some demographics the mental obstacles to change are so great its cost prohibitive to base success on changing such minds, and your comment is a great example of such thinking.

More likely would be them to move beyond such groups and try to get children and young business people into the concept. Should they succeed the revolution would begin.
ryan_schiebout
not rated yet Jan 19, 2013
Newspapers could eventually get back into some sort of business using this technology. As these things get cheaper and become disposable adding video or other forms of media to stories would be easy. And after you're done with it, throw it away like you would a regular newspaper.

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