Researchers create a paper-thin computer
It's a long way from hitting store shelves, but the new Papertab tablet debuting at CES shows where the technology is headed.
One company, Plastic Logic, is demonstrating an early prototype of just that this week at the Consumer Electronics Show. The company's Papertab tablet has a long way to go, but you can see what researchers envision and what that might mean for the next generation of computer users.
The Papertab looks like a thick sheet of paper, but it has a plastic display with a touchscreen. It connects to a high-end processor from Intel (INTC). The Papertabs seem to work best when there are more than one around. A user can be writing an email on one, for example, and then tap another one that contains a photo to add that photo to the message.
"Within five to 10 years, most computers, from ultra-notebooks to tablets, will look and feel just like these sheets of printed color paper," Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen's University, said in a statement. Plastic Logic worked with the university and with Intel to develop the Papertab.
Those paper-thin computers will probably be fairly inexpensive, too, to the point where companies and consumers could have several around that interact with each other. Each Papertab can hold thousands of documents, which researchers say replaces the need for a computer monitor and files of paperwork.
Time Magazine's Jared Newman, who saw a demonstration at CES, wrote that he could see a person throwing a bunch of Papertab sheets in a backpack like a magazine without worrying about damaging them. "I could imagine sending an article to a sheet, then doing some old-school editing with a stylus," he added.
You can't buy anything like this now, and Newman reports that Plastic Logic wants to license the technology to other companies. So perhaps Microsoft (MSFT) or Google (GOOG) might be interested in incorporating the idea into future products. (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)
"The point of the prototypes is to prove that the technology exists, and to encourage the industry to work on components that can fit within an ultra-thin, flexible display," Newman writes.
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