Flexible, networked e-ink displays mimic physical documents

The Paper Tab project lets users transfer content between displays by tapping them together

Researchers demonstrated flexible, networked e-ink displays that behave like papers on a desk at a conference in Paris. The displays can be used separately or in tandem, opening up new possibilities for a paperless office.

To see a demonstration of the displays, watch a video on YouTube.

Called Paper Tab, the project presented at the Computer Human Interaction (CHI) conference includes three wired, flexible grayscale e-ink displays, similar to Amazon's original Kindle. The displays are not touch-screen devices, but can be bent as a form of input. For example, to respond to an email, users need to bend the top left corner of the display. They would then need to use a Bluetooth keyboard to compose the message.

Annesh P. Tarun, a Ph.D. student at the Human Media Lab at Queens University said that computers and tablets are limiting because "you're stuck with this portal through which you have to do all your interactions."

For now, the three displays need to be wired together in order to transfer information and be aware of their position relative to the others. The system is a tangle of wires, but Tarun hopes to reduce the bulk with more development.

"We're working on making these displays wireless and thinner and integrating the hardware with the displays in the future," he said.

In one demonstration the research team showed how one screen could serve as an email in-box. When the second screen was tapped on a message in the list, the second screen loaded the message full screen. Then the third screen, which displayed a picture of a baby, was tapped on the second screen, which attached the picture to the email message. Tarun then bent the top left corner of the second screen to send the email.

In another demonstration the three displays were set as maps. When the screens were next to each other the map displayed across the three of them. When one was moved to another part of the table, the display loaded a new section of the map.

Paper Tab is a follow up to another Queens University project presented two years ago at CHI called the Paper Phone. That project was a flexible, e-ink smartphone that was controlled with similar gestures.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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