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Canadian Researchers Debut PaperTab, the Paper-Thin Tablet 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the expensive-origami dept.
redletterdave writes "The PaperTab, which looks and feels just like a sheet of paper, may one day overtake today's tablet. Developed by researchers at the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, the PaperTab features a flexible, high-resolution 10.7-inch plastic touchscreen display built by Plastic Logic, the company borne from Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, and relies on a second-generation Intel Core i5 processor to turn what looks like a sheet of white paper into a living, interactive display. Unlike typical tablets akin to Apple's iPad, the idea of PaperTab is to use one app at a time, per PaperTab. To make tasks easier, users would own 10 or more PaperTabs at once and lay them out to their liking; with multiple tablets to separate your applications, PaperTab relies on an interface that allows you to combine and merge elements from disparate applications with intuitive dragging, dropping, pointing, and folding."
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Canadian Researchers Debut PaperTab, the Paper-Thin Tablet

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apple invented paper.

  • Grammar? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Good to see our editors proof read: "may one today overtake today's tablet."

    • /. editors were replaced years ago with the following shell script:

      ~> more slashdot_editor.sh

      #!/bin/sh
      echo 'Looks good!'

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      "The PaperTab may one today overtake today's tablet." What's wrong with the grammar?? It looks fine to me.

  • Because it would suck to have that many wires connecting all the PaperTabs together. And while it's flexibility makes it less likely to break when dropped, isn't there a risk of it being torn, or mistaken for regular paper and thrown away or shredded?
    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:31PM (#42542055)

      where do you put the battery, where do you put the wifi or cel hardware, where do you put the cpu that is currently sitting on the floor, why does my 800mhz rooted nook simple touch have a faster touch response than an i5?

      • by docmordin (2654319) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:58AM (#42543449)

        Including a processor on the backside of the PaperTab wouldn't likely be a huge problem, as there are multiple research groups investigating ultralow-power, flexible, organic electronics, e.g.,

        G. H. Gelinck, et al., "Flexible active matrix displays and shift registers based on solution-processed organic transistors", Nature Mater., 3: 106, 2004
        K. Nomura, et al., "Room-temperature fabrication of transparent flexible thin-film transistors using amorphous oxide semiconductors", Nature, 432: 488-492, 2004
        B. Yoo, et al., "High-performance solution-deposited n-channel organic transistors and their complementary circuits", Adv. Mater., 19: 4028, 2007
        H. Klauk, et al., "Ultralow-power organic complementary circuits", Nature, 445: 745, 2007
        W. Xiong, et al., "A 3-V, 6-bit C-2C digital-to-analog converter using complementary organic thin-film transistors on glass", IEEE J. Solid State Circuits, 45: 1380-1388, 2010
        H. Marien, et al., "A fully integrated delta sigma ADC in organic thin-film transistor technology on flexible plastic foil", IEEE J. Solid State Circuits, 46: 276-284, 2011
        K. Myny, et al., "Unipolar organic transistor circuits made robust by dual-gate technology", IEEE J. Solid State Circuits, 46: 1223-1230, 2011
        K. Myny, et al., "An 8-bit, 40-instructions-per-second organic microprocessor on plastic foil", IEEE J. Solid State Circuits, 47: 284-291, 2012

        Beyond that, there are already flexible batteries on the market.

        • by fnj (64210)

          there are already flexible batteries on the market

          They aren't even close to being paper thin, and never will be (for useful output).

    • Mind you what they're showing obviously appears to be a prototype; a proof-of-concept.
      I imagine that if this thing were to hit production that it would definitely improve; thinner consolidated cables (if any), faster refresh rate, etc..

      It might not exactly be bleeding edge but it's very promising!
      • Concept (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheLink (130905) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:24AM (#42543331) Journal
        I prefer a different concept - one where humans are augmented and become superhuman rather than merely the environment becoming magical.

        For example, cameras+ wearable displays + brain-computer interfaces. Control by special gloves, eye-blink gestures, and/or thought-macros. Then the "screen" can be pretty big even though it is physically small and doesn't consume as much power as a huge display.

        Once you have that, you have virtual eidetic memory, virtual telepathy and telekinesis. Most of the tech is there or nearly there. One of the major problems might actually be Copyright Law - it conflicts with having eidetic memory especially if you want to share it with others. The **AA won't be happy with a penny for your thoughts, or their thoughts ;).

        Permanent video+audio recording at low/mid res, with high def/res in a ring buffer (past X minutes), so you can have the past X minutes in high def if you need it for whatever reason. Configurable image and audio recognition. Context awareness (time + location+ surroundings+ history) + super PDA features.

        Military edition might have gun muzzle detection, camouflage countermeasures, automatic "crack-thump" sniper location, UWB radar+comms, range gated vision (the latter two can give away your position to enemies that are suitably equipped[1]).

        [1] That said, electronic devices emit signals that can be detected if you have enough fancy stuff.
    • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @02:59AM (#42543237) Journal
      The wires are what lets them do it.

      Basically each 'tablet' is just a display, with all other hardware removed. The wires are connected to an actual CPU, which does all the processing, etc.

      In other words, these guys bought a display and wired it up. Woohoo.
    • Thank you, captain obvious.

  • Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:22PM (#42541975)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81iiGWdsJgg&feature=player_embedded

  • since the day they were born in the lab, but there is more to a computer than its display, wheres the flexible and paper thin battery, the flexible core i5, the flexible ram rom and flash?

    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday January 10, 2013 @12:09AM (#42542353)

      "since the day they were born in the lab, but there is more to a computer than its display, wheres the flexible and paper thin battery, the flexible core i5, the flexible ram rom and flash?"

      They are in the basement computer, doing all the work and sending the result to the screen, like ...how would you call it... a thin client. :-)

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        yep, and the last time I checked paper wasn't tethered to the floor

      • by tooyoung (853621) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @02:11AM (#42543041)

        wheres the flexible and paper thin battery, the flexible core i5, the flexible ram rom and flash?

        They are in the basement computer, doing all the work and sending the result to the screen, like ...how would you call it... a thin client. :-)

        Oh, cool! So the thin client doesn't even need a battery?

  • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:30PM (#42542043)

    the Paper-Thin Tablet

    But sir, it's paper-thin.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:37PM (#42542119)
    We've had nice paper thin displays for years now. But a thin display doesn't mean a thin tablet. Until we have thin CPUs and thin RAM sticks, and thin flash memory and thin connectors, we aren't going to have a paper thin tablet.

    When you get all the components you need for a tablet you end up with something just as thick as what we've got on shelves today. By no means thick, but not paper-thin.
    • by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:49PM (#42542215)

      What about a paper thin battery. (Thats going to last more than a few minutes)

      • by Lucky75 (1265142)

        Actually, they're pretty close on that front.

    • by samkass (174571)

      We've had nice paper thin displays for years now. But a thin display doesn't mean a thin tablet. Until we have thin CPUs and thin RAM sticks, and thin flash memory and thin connectors, we aren't going to have a paper thin tablet.

      When you get all the components you need for a tablet you end up with something just as thick as what we've got on shelves today. By no means thick, but not paper-thin.

      Yup. If you've ever looked inside an iPad you know it's basically a huge battery with a couple of circuits and display tacked on.

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        and none of it is flexible as an assembled product

        even if you took the ipad guts out of its case, and laminated it in plastic, it isn't going to move much

    • They're thinking of the retail packaging all those chips come in. The actual chips are far thinner than paper. Copier paper, for example, is about 100 microns. Chips were 7 microns in 2006. I don't know how much thinner they can be today.
      Intel normally puts a CPU in a casing big enough to handle because there's no reason to make it thinner then paper, but that's just packaging. There's no reason flash memory or other clips couldn't be put in thinner packages. Remember microSD cards containing flash c
      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        there are reasons, heat dissipation being one, and not having to wire bond each chip to a PCB is another, which is kind of a bitch

      • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @12:37AM (#42542547)

        The thickness of the wafers onto which chips are etched is NOT 7 microns. The standard wafer thickness is about 775um, or just about 1mm. That doesn't count the substrate onto which the electrical connections must be soldered.

        It's also extremely fragile at this thickness, and a big portion of placing it onto a ceramic or organic plastic substrate is so that it doesn't crack.

        With a plain wafer, you can crack it by gently rapping it with your knuckle, or dropping it gently on a hard surface.

        Thickness may not be the issue, but durability is. So is heat dissipation. A modern chip is designed to dissipate heat rapidly, among other things. There are all sort of problems beyond flexibility that plague this particular engineering problem.

        • It's possible to thin wafers right down from the backside after initial manufacture. This is already done for the ICs used in smartcards - apparently the processed wafers are surprisingly flexible.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        When they say an IC is developed with a 7um process, that's the resolution of the lithography process. the smallest feature they can make. The die itself is much thicker.

        7 micron is huge, 70's tech. in 2005 they were already down to at least 90nm, maybe smaller. (0.09 um).

    • by m00sh (2538182)

      We've had nice paper thin displays for years now. But a thin display doesn't mean a thin tablet. Until we have thin CPUs and thin RAM sticks, and thin flash memory and thin connectors, we aren't going to have a paper thin tablet.

      All that can be squeezed into a quarter sized "paper-clip" or a stiff spline.

      When you get all the components you need for a tablet you end up with something just as thick as what we've got on shelves today. By no means thick, but not paper-thin.

      And that is why the whole video is ab

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      How is this insightful?

      A trivial way of setting it up is having the papertabs being dumb displays, why, sort of exactly how they have them right now. They're just eink so require very little power, easy to setup with wireless power transmission. Some genius will figure out how exactly to send binary encoded data for the display that will combine the receiving of the data with the powering of the unit, each data pulse more energy. Have a hub that communicates to all the displays, keeps track of them, etc.

    • by quantaman (517394)

      We've had nice paper thin displays for years now. But a thin display doesn't mean a thin tablet. Until we have thin CPUs and thin RAM sticks, and thin flash memory and thin connectors, we aren't going to have a paper thin tablet.

      When you get all the components you need for a tablet you end up with something just as thick as what we've got on shelves today. By no means thick, but not paper-thin.

      Yes and no.

      You're still going to need something big and bulky to house all the non-display bits, but they don't need to be with the screen.

      Assuming the tech is up to it you could make something like a projector screen, walk around with your tablet contained in a tube, then when you want to use it unroll the screen and start away. Might actually work better as a phone, instead of choosing between a tiny innocuous talk-only phone, and a big ungainly smart phone, you could have the best of both worlds, a litt

    • There's absolutely no reason why a paper thin tablet needs to have RAM, CPU, battery and peripheral connectors. All it needs is one connector, for a cable that attaches to an external computer. Make that computer as big as an MP3 player or at most a phone, and you're set: you can keep the computer in your pocket, and have the screen (only) be the tablet.

      People already keep their music players in a pocket, and put up with cables that end in earplugs. Same principle.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      If you open up a modern tablet, most of the electronics are crammed into a sliver of PCB. Most of the remaining space is taken up by the battery. Presumably if the battery requirements can be reduced (or battery tech improves), you could put the electronics and battery into a thin bar along one edge of the screen.

      My prediction is we're going to have "scroll" tablets - the electronics and battery will be housed in a cylindrical tube, and the screen is rolled around it for storage. When you want to use i
  • The actual link (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:42PM (#42542139)

    Since the douchetard du jour forgot to, I guess it's up to old Anonymous Cowherd to link to the actual website (rather than the warmed-over blogruel we were served):

    http://www.humanmedialab.org/papertab [humanmedialab.org]

    You can thank me by clicking 'reply' and composing a note of thanks.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, thanks, I guess.

      The IBT is hardly your average, run-of-the-mill blog, but is a well-established online business news outlet. In fact, TFA happens to post a link to the company in the FIRST line.

      I'd rather read an established media article on a new product, which contains a link to the company/product in question. At least that way, there is a fighting chance of reading something other than a company's advertisement.

      BTW if there was ever a piece of prose that deserved to be credited to a "douchetard du

    • Thanks. I never click on the headlines - I don't want to be part of Dice Holdings' SEO scheme here, which realistically is what Slashdot has become.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So we finally - after a few hundred years - manage to get rid of the majority of pieces of paper cluttering our desktops...

    And now we get to bring them all back? Except they're thicker, and you can't let them touch each other or they do stuff you may not want? And they're all connected with wires? And we don't get color any more? And they will be as comparatively expensive as parchment was, a few hundred years ago?

    So... none of the advantages of paper, and all the usual disadvantages of tech just for th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So we finally - after a few hundred years - manage to get rid of the majority of pieces of paper cluttering our desktops...

      And now we get to bring them all back?

      No. Current tablet tech can't replace paper. Paper is superior in many instances because you need to have multiple sheets out at one time. This article is the first thing that I've seen that looks like it could actually go a long way toward replacing paper. I'm thinking that a tablet that is essentially an iPad in a folio along with 6 or 8 of these things would be a contender. You'd use the LCD screen for things that need fast updating, and then "print" to the papertabs and pull them out to use them, o

  • The youtube video is worthless, they show off lame functionality that is entirely possible with any current normal tablet, such as extended desktops, tapping to move documents, and location aware features. The only papertab feature is bending the paper to navigate pages, which is error prone, gimmicky, and not worth much. Show me the technology in the papertab on why it is so thin and flexible.

  • I left the site immediately once that video started to auto play. This has to stop.

  • they had me hooked, until I saw the cables. They could have used Wireless and a smaller power cable, but it's just another tech demo of never to be seen stuff.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      I suspect that thick bar across the bottom where the wires plug in is also where they've hidden the non-bendable chips for the device. I noticed that the bottom of the sheet didn't bend when they were flipping through the PDF example.

      So this technology is definitely not ready for delivery.

      It also strikes me as incredibly gimmicky. Picking up and shuffling paper is far from intuitive, and I don't want to cover my desk with a bunch of sheets. In the area consumed by my monitor and keyboard, I could fi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I cannot wait, in 10 years we will get to see apple say they invented this and the patent office will happily give them a patent for it.

  • Do not want... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt.lynx@bc@ca> on Thursday January 10, 2013 @01:20AM (#42542801) Journal

    Sure, it's cool that it's paper thin... but a) it's black and white, not color; and b) the refresh rate, if the video is any indication, seems abysmal for anything but static displays.

    Can somebody please tell me what possible advantage this has over an e-ink reader?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pretty neat, but I can't for the life of me see how this would be "better" in any way than either a normal tablet or a desktop computer. The gesture controls they showed - bending the side or corner - are hardly intuitive, and why would I want a mess of those laying all over my desk? How is tapping my email to an "outbox" easier than clicking send? I think they are on the wrong track with how they envision using the technology.

    Assuming they could make them entirely self contained and cheap enough to be semi

    • I find that my computer navigation "shortcircuits" when I get tired, in a way that's kind of analogous to focal dystonia [wikipedia.org], but in a purely mental way, not a muscular problem. I know what task I want to achieve, and I move my mouse, but I click on the wrong icon genuinely believing it'll do what I want. Example: I'm playing Minesweeper, I've identified that there's a mine on a square and I go to flag it, but I press the wrong button. Computer commands are very abstract, and are very minimally different. A

  • > the idea of PaperTab is to use one app at a time, per Papertab. To make tasks easier, users would own 10 or more PaperTabs at once and lay them out to their liking; with multiple tablets to separate your applications,

    Wonderful. Windows 8, except in a bunch of separate devices.

    • Bind them together in a book, you could put the other electronics in the spine. Then they might be onto something.
      • by roc97007 (608802)

        But if you're going to go to all that trouble, why not have one screen that can browse through multiple pages. Like... a tablet?

  • I wouldn't want the wind to blow away my manual Metro layout.
  • ...doesn't mean you should.

    I'm laughing at the pedantic irony in 10 PaperTabs to get any work done.

  • If this is some sort of eink display as it appears to be, it is going to be useless for anything but reading, and personally I don't want my reader bending and contorting like a flimsy piece of paper. But hey, at least I could lay a bunch of these things out to view large monochrome images or something.
  • Maitre D: And finally, monsieur, a paper-thin mint.
    Mr Creosote: No.
    Maitre D: Oh sir! It's only a tiny little thin one.
    Mr Creosote: No. Fuck off - I'm full...
    Maitre D: Oh sir... it's only paper thin.

  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:16AM (#42543305) Homepage Journal
    ..on paper.
  • This seems significantly more inconvenient than tapping icons or photos on a tablet. The extendable display is neat, but I can already do that with my Nexus 7 and my computer with any one of a handfull of apps.

  • A4-sized displays (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flux (5274) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:41AM (#42543383) Homepage

    The display seems pretty large. Does this mean we are finally going to get proper devices for reading PDFs?

  • true ebook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by locofungus (179280) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:32AM (#42543569)

    Couple of hundred of these bound together in a hardback cover, maybe with a processor and memory in the spine, maybe just a connector.

    Kindle is great for fiction, which is linear, but less good for reference books where you often want to flip back and forwards etc.

    Now you can have the space advantages of ebooks with the UI advantages of a proper book.

    Tim.

    • You could make a really good Guide Book like that. With pages dedicated to certain locations. You could then emboss on the cover some kind of comforting passage for whenever you get lost or into something you can't handle, "Don't Panic" comes to mind.

    • And with wireless connectivity, the contents could be interactive and collaborative. Just the thing for a Young Lady [wikipedia.org].

      I seriously hope this is not the model flexible-display producers adopt. Yeah, you get some advantages from a bound stack -- quick rough navigation, coarse physical bookmarking -- but you lose the ability to spread a selection of sheets out on a desk. On the other hand, if it's easy to drag a copy of a page onto the desk, which itself is a display surface... nah, the microtransaction fees wou

  • ... its cool and all but it needs a lot of work to bring it successfully to market. getting rid of the woires and then figuring out how to power it, etc...

  • Sure, the idea of a paper based electronic displays is cool, but this product isn't. Looks like a screen stuck in some cheap lamination.

    I don't really see a need for this product in general. A rigid tablet is more usable under many more circumstances and I am sure over the coming years rigid tablets will become slimmer and lighter. Even a tablet that is more like cardboard is more practical then floppy plastic. How about sitting at the beach trying to read a book and having this thing flapping in the wi

  • No, this is just incredibly idiotic. Have one device that does many things. A stack of paper is an awful, inconvenient form and if the computer has a Core i5 and any decent amount of RAM, there's no need to limit it to one application.

    • Since I've started working with documents in an office, I've come to appreciate the advantages of paper vs. working on a display. The main advantage is space: you're not constrained to a half-meter-square workspace if you're using sheets of paper. You can organize documents spatially. You can write on a sheet of paper with one hand while talking on the phone. You can quickly skim through a stack of documents which would take a long time to open individually on a computer. You can make notes graphically

      • For that purpose it could make sense to have these paper-tablets linked together and able to fold and unfold like a map to allow for more screen area for one multitasking computer, but having a bunch of separate, single-tasking tablets is just simulating the limitations of paper.

  • Rule 34, that is: how is this gadget going to improve access to porn?

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