Every year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas companies show off their latest and greatest gadgets. But over the past couple of years the number of cool gadgets at CES has really taken a nosedive, and this year I think things have hit a new low.
No revolutionary ereaders or tablets were shown off. E Ink is still demoing the exact same products from the past 5 conferences; there wasn’t a single thing we haven’t seen before. But one of the worst of all was something called the PaperTab, which is supposed to be a paper-like tablet (in theory anyway).
The idea of a tablet with an electronic paper display is an intriguing one given the energy-efficiency and outdoor readability of epaper displays, but the PaperTab is so far off base that if it were posted at the start of April I would’ve thought it was a joke.
I’m trying not to be so critical because I know that it’s just a prototype put together by the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University, but after seeing the video below it’s just so ridiculous that I can’t take it seriously. This product is never going to reach the market in any shape of form unless they make some drastic changes to the overall concept.
One of the craziest things of all is that it is supposedly running on an Intel Core i5 processor. If so, they must be using a 0.02 GHz version because the PaperTab is slower than my hacked Nook Touch.
And then there’s the fact the PaperTab needs a different screen for each “app”:
“Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have ten or more interactive displays or PaperTabs: one per app in use,” explains Ryan Brotman, a research scientist at Intel.
So you’re going to need to buy several expensive epaper screens. That idea is sure to catch on with consumers. Oh, and there’s some real pretty wires connected to each one too so it’s highly unportable. And to top it off there’s a nice glossy reflective screen.
The bending of the PaperTab to turn pages and interact with the screen may sound cool at first. But just think about the usability of that for a second. Having to continually reach to bend the screen would get seriously annoying after awhile.
The PaperTab uses a 10.7″ epaper screen developed by Plastic Logic. That was the first mistake. Anything with the Plastic Logic name on it is doomed to fail. After 12+ years of blundering along in the electronic paper field, you’d think Plastic Logic would have run out of money by now considering that they haven’t yet released a single product to the mass market.
Think I’m being too harsh? Take a look at this video and then tell me you’d spend what is in all likelihood several hundred dollars to buy this Frankenstein of a contraption. It’s like the epaper industry is going backwards instead of forwards.
Sounds like the researchers are fans of the ANDROMEDA TV show and trying to create real-life “flimsies”. Which is kinda hard to do without green screen special effects. 🙂
Wow, that looks incredibly impractical.
I think this is a truly brilliant idea (no sarcasm intended), but at this stage of development the device is too problematic to be desirable.
First, the Papertab is literally paper-like. A user might think of rolling it up, folding it, making it into origami, or just crumpling it up and throing it in the wastebin. Surely it’s not intended to be that much paper-like. Its advantages seem to be it is thinner, lighter, uses less power, not brittle, less fragile and vulnerable to impacts and scratches (but it could tear and succumb to other damage), moderately pliable, capable of tactile interaction.
Second, lose those wires. Dragging around those heavy cable in the video defeats its purpose to be easy to handle. I assume there is not yet a completely self-contained prototype of a functional e-reader with the mass of a sheet of paper.
Third, that shiny surface and slow refresh speed is not desirable. It functions like the primitive e-readers of over a decade ago. If they could reduce its surface glare to that of a slick magazine page, and make a sharp, high contrast display, that would be better.
Fourth, this just came to me — paper cuts. I would hate a flimsy device that can cut me, in addition to being able to lose it in a book or behind furniture. Not to mention a gust of wind blowing it out of your hand or off of your table.
These intrepid inventors have a new set of problems to deal with, in addition to the usual problems of designing a functional and sellable device. But if they could succeed with a device that is sturdier, more comfortable to use and more versatile, it may have some good possibilities.
Um, yeah… This isn’t going anywhere (not in this form anyhow). The idea of a flexible e-paper display isn’t new, but it’s still a good idea and will have its uses. As THIS thing is, it’s pure garbage and might actually hurt further development of this technology, as potential investors in other flexible e-paper might have seen this joke of a product and associate its quality with might be coming out. Really, this shouldn’t have gone to a demo status; this needed to be rethought and redone entirely… by someone that has some sort of history of releasing products to the market.
Bob DeLoyd says
Baby steps Nathan… this appears to be a prototype hacked together and has some interesting concepts and ideas like the drag and drop to another nearby Paper Tab.
If they could lose those cables and such and make each independent of one another…
The future is a strange place, a blind spot in our minds that needs to be filled.
My belief is that down the line processors will evolve to the point that this would be technically possible. But, I would think that by then we would be interacting and interconnected in different ways. The thing about this type of research is that it’s synergistic so that you never know how it could be applied.
This prototype is a screen with sensors, all it needs to be a complete unit is a processor, memroy, battery, a USB plug and a casing. The e-reader could be a pasteboard-like unit about one quarter inch thick or less, and weigh two ounces or less. I think the hardware for it does exist now.
The prototype has one drawback — to use its virtual keyboard, it has to rest on a firm surface. A cardstock-like backing should take care of that. It could have handwriting recognition and drawing tablet capabilities, that would also require a firm backing.
However, the Plastic Logic company needs to come up with at least one market-ready product, or get a serious business partner.
Arlynn Smith says
Why does it have to be flexible? I want a large display with a viewing area the size of a piece of paper. It can be on a piece of glass or the thickness of an IPad, it would still be lighter than most text books and about the same weight as a good magazine. I want to read technical journals and eTexts without having to scroll all over the place or lug heavy books around. give me that before you try to make it flexible. I am not going to roll it up and shove it in my back pocket, unless you show me a really good reason. Making it so I have to “flip” the page is harder than just brushing my finger over the surface. I would really like to see their VOC for putting flexible and large format at the same time.