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Science Hardware

Paper Capable Of Playing Videos Developed 332

Makarand writes "Nature has posted an article describing paper capable of displaying video using rearrangeable electronic ink, being produced by Philips Research Labs (in the Netherlands). The paper-display draws power from a lightweight battery, and displays data stored in a portable chip. The display consists of pixels containing a drop of colored ink that can spread over a reflective white background under electrical control to create colors. With fast switching times and lower switching voltages, these paper-displays are capable of displaying video images."
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Paper Capable Of Playing Videos Developed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:04AM (#7052724)
    How convenient...

    • All slashdot readers will care about is whether it runs linux. Porn comes second.
  • Marketing madness! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Empiric ( 675968 ) * on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:04AM (#7052725)
    Okay, it might be way too late at night for me to be posting, but...

    I wonder if the advent of multimedia paper, as it were, will create a sea-change in the nature of all types of advertising.

    As it stands now, most every box/can/available-surface of products is in some way branded advertising for the product, like, your coke can says, naturally, "Coca-Cola". This advertising must translate into some approximately-calculable value for the Coca-Cola company, in terms of more coke sales.

    But... is there an inflection point at which an ad for something else (say, Porsche cars) would be more valuable than the advertisement for coke? If so, might companies sell space on all manner of products wrapped in this multimedia-paper like banner ads?

    It might be interesting to open my refrigerator and see a few-dozen multimedia presentations on various consumer goods, changing every morning, but... well, maybe a final trip in that Porsche to some Amish community might be more sanity-preserving.
    • by jestill ( 656510 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:11AM (#7052750) Journal
      I am afraid that as costs come down you may be right. Combine this with low cost sound systems and you have a recipe for complete madness. This sort of thing has been explored in the Minority Report Movie, and to some extend in Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age'.
    • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @09:23AM (#7054051) Homepage
      I'll welcome them when slashdot runs the first story on some geek with too much time on his hands taking apart the displays from 200 (insert product here) packages and wrapping them around his car, putting cameras here and there, to build a cloaking device.

      You know it's coming...

      But seriously, when? I saw this stuff being touted by Xerox 5 or 7 years ago at EPCOT. They tried to impress so much with the little props and videos, only to try to gloss over the distinct LACK of Epaper on site. No true demo...
    • by bidaum ( 584939 )
      I don't know much about electronic paper but I pressume
      A) it needs power
      and B) its easy to damage.
      As far as food products like soda are concerned I would think it might be taboo to package a product that holds a charge.
      Also, the way stores ship, store, and bundle all the bulk they buy would run down the batteries (or if its got some sweet solar array keep it out of the light) and probably damage the display. Magnets are probably used in much of the equipment used or kept around bundles of products while in
    • by shokk ( 187512 )
      Think of how quickly a marketing campaign gets old. I've seen cases of Coke lately with Star Wars Episode 1 (not 2!) on the side. What if this could be kept in sync with the latest marketing campaign so that cases on the display shelves all showed the latest logo or ad? RFID can keep track of what the product is and only display the ad for that particular brand out of the thousands that might be playing on shelves that day. Imagine a stack of sode cubes on the shelf displaying ads and leasing time to th
  • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:06AM (#7052732) Journal
    Color e-paper, great for display devices, able to replace LCDs, etc. Now when do these things go into mass production? I'd love to have flexible solar cells at pennies per yard, but I can't get those yet either.
    • by JohnPM ( 163131 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:58AM (#7053048) Homepage
      This type of post is starting to get about as interesting as "First Post!!" and "Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!"...

      Every single new technology article covered gets someone saying "that's all well and good but they've been saying this for years. speak to me when i can buy one.".

      Take the article for what it's worth. It's not a sales brochure or an investment prospectus, it's a science/tech piece.
    • This Philips paper is good but there is already a Full color version capable of running video at 70fps produced by Magink []. There was an article in the International Herald Tribune [] and New York Times in August!
  • BBC News story... (Score:5, Informative)

    by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:08AM (#7052739) Journal
    Here's the BBC's slant on the news: Electronic paper prepares for video [].

    They're already up to 80 Hz refresh (12-13 ms respnose times). That's pretty damn impressive for a technology that's still in the basic R&D stage, and it augurs well for the future.
    • Re:BBC News story... (Score:4, Informative)

      by dmoynihan ( 468668 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:23AM (#7052969) Homepage
      Bistable nematic [] screens can do 25 hz []--difference is they're shipping it out right now. []
    • Power Usage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @11:02AM (#7054819)
      One thing that has been noted about E-Ink and it's like is that it only needs power to change display, while a static image is retained with no power usage. This is because the fluid that the particles are suspended in is viscous enough that they pretty much stay in place, unless a voltage is applied. This means that they can operate at very low power levels.

      While it didn't say so in the paper, it appears that this new technology requires continous voltage to be applied to keep the ink from spreading out acrossed the full surface of the pixel. So this paper would likely use more power than the particle approach, and would be pure black when no power was applied, basically functionally equivalent to LCD's today. I wonder how the power consumption / price of this device will compare to LCD's once they are being mass produced. Regardless, it would be worth it to have a laptop that was easily readable outside.
    • They just need to figure out a way for each pixel to respond to a different modulation on a radio frequency, and allow the radio waves to power it. I agree, it's still damn impressive without those innovations, but if they came about, you'd have your new foldable information revolution.
  • by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:10AM (#7052746)
    Boring...they had all that in Harry Potter two years ago, and oil paintings that talk ;-)
  • by panurge ( 573432 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:14AM (#7052761)
    The picture in the article has to be misleading. Although a camera has adjacent color receptor sites, print color doesn't work like that at all. If the cells are adjacent, they can only produce an approximate gray. In the CMYK standard printing process, the ink markings superimpose, so grays are achieved with different sizes of black dots, and red is obtained by superimposing yellow (-blue) and magenta (-green). This means that instead of being adjacent as in the picture, the cells would have to be stacked. There would also need to be some way of ensuring that when the cells were partially colored, the upper colored areas were not directly over the ones below (or they would be obscured and only the top color would show.)

    There may be some magical solution to this, but it looks to me as if color is very, very much more difficult than mono.

    • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:27AM (#7052808) Homepage Journal
      In the CMYK standard printing process, the ink markings superimpose

      This is partially true as I understand it. When the ink is layed down the screens for the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are not aligned perfectly. They are offset so many degrees apart and a printer could tell you the optimum settings to avoid moire patterns. Perhaps this could have something to do with it.

    • I may have no clue what I'm talking about, but my impression was that they plan to get the dots really small, to the point where the eye can't distinguish them as individual points--then your eye just takes the average and gets whatever color was intended. They said something similar in the article with respect to getting clean shades of grey.

      If you think about it, even regular ink works the same way--whatever size it is, if you have a dot of ink on the paper then it's going to obscure whatever's below i

      • by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:34AM (#7052992)
        It is not a question of working differently at a molecular level. In the thin film that actually ends up on the page, the inks are translucent - think Jello, not paint. Each ink absorbs the light at some frequencise and passes others, which then bounce of the white paper behind - unsess abosrbewd by another ink at the same point. It is not perfect, and in bulk the inks look opaque. But the inks are actually printed over each other.

        You are right that, if the dots are really small, the eye will average them out. This is, actually, how screen printing works: there are actually rows of dots in shaded areas. However, they are of the order of 30 times smaller than pixels on even the best screen, so it takes quite a powerfule glass to see them.

        What the article doesn't say, but the picture does, is that Cyan+Magenta+Yellow, which should theoretically produce black, actually produces a durty purplish brown. So you need some real black to get a good rendition. Each pixel will have to have four cells.

        Grandparent is correct. Because the cells are spatially separate, 100% red will actually only have 25% of the the background red, the rest remaining white. So I would expect a colour display, while having good readability, to be rather flat an uninteresting. The B/W display should be very good. Because it is reflective not emissive technology, it should have excellent readabilty and low poer consumption (but not the zero power consumption of the e-Ink in /. a coupel of weeks ago).
    • Although a camera has adjacent color receptor sites, print color doesn't work like that at all. If the cells are adjacent, they can only produce an approximate gray

      If you can vary the intensity of size of the cells, you can get lots of colors other than gray. I have a fairly high-end inkjet CMYK printer that produces great prints. (It's an Epson 2200, fwiw.) To the naked eye, colored areas look, um, colored. But if you look at a print with a loupe (even my relatively cheap 4x one) you can see zillions

    • by MalachiConstant ( 553800 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:42AM (#7052858)
      In the CMYK standard printing process, the ink markings superimpose, so grays are achieved with different sizes of black dots, and red is obtained by superimposing yellow (-blue) and magenta (-green). This means that instead of being adjacent as in the picture, the cells would have to be stacked.

      I worked in a pre-press shop for a couple of years, so I've worked with printing on a very low level. The color dots don't need to be directly stacked on one another to achieve a certain color. In fact each color is printed at a seperate angle so the dots are rarely directly on top of one another

      Take a magnifying glass to your sunday comics and you can see that the black dots are at one angle (usually straight up and down) and each other color is rotated slightly. Even at relatively large dot sizes (72 dpi) the dots seem to merge together to form whatever color they're looking for.

      Since the dots are arranged in groups of four in this paper you could achieve the same result, except it may look a bit more like a computer image (made up of distinct pixels in a grid) as opposed to a magazine picture (pixels for each color are rotated). It also sounds like they can make the dots whatever size they want, which is how it is done in printing:

      The larger the applied voltage, the more the ink retracts. The ink is therefore capable of a continuous grey scale, not just of a two-tone contrast.

      And even if the dots were stacked directly on top of each other it would still work. The ink is spread so thin that it's transparent, that's why yellow on top of magenta shows as red. So if they could stack it somehow it would show correctly (assuming the ink they use is like regular ink in that way).

    • Hmmm, the painter Georges Seurat was a pointilist. I'm not going to post a link to his picture because we would melt down any server I link, but a quick google for his name will find you pictures.

      My point is: if you look closely at those paintings, the dots aren't superimposed. They are side by side. And they are quite big: the size of small brushes... So it *does* work.

    • Look really, really close at your computer screen. The cells don't overlap. They abut. And you see all those intermediate colors just fine.
      • Because you can just add extra brightness for particular colour channel - it's not the case for reflective images. If you put this e-paper with red image on it and normal red paper, the latter will look much redder. The e-paper will either look pinker (if other cells are turned off and are white) or a darker shade of red (if other cells are on).
    • If halftoning and similar techniques are impossible, you could alternate colours with appropriate duty cycles for the shade?

      Hey, this is the kind of obvious solution which warrants an unnecssary patent!

  • Sounds great. Let's just hope junior doesn't mix up 'touch screen' with 'crayola-responsive'.

    I'd hate to come home and find my Toshiba notebook was turned into Little Billy's coloring book.
  • Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpiffyMarc ( 590301 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:18AM (#7052780)
    We're that much closer to those creepy animated singing cereal boxes from Minority Report...
  • That's right - I said overloads. As soon as this is cheap enough, it's going to go on every bit of packaging, junk mail, and flat surface. Each one will vie for your attention. Imagine walking into a Target or Krogers or Walmart and seeing aisle after aisle of seizure-inducing, moving displays that blur into a undulating mass of 'buy ME!' and over-stimulation.

    When is it enough? How much can our wee little monkey brains take? I'm guessing that the 'eXtREEEM' of the future will be advertising that may k

    • "Imagine walking into a Target or Krogers or Walmart and seeing aisle after aisle of seizure-inducing, moving displays that blur into a undulating mass of 'buy ME!' and over-stimulation."

      Get serious. I mean, sure, that'll start to happen. But soon people will be so fed up with it that even the thick-skulled advertising industry types will realize that they've gone too far. And then this kind of advertising overkill will go the way of spam and popups.

      Oh, wait........

  • by achurch ( 201270 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:22AM (#7052792) Homepage

    I'll still take real dead trees over electronic paper for my leisure reading, I think, but how about the opposite application: writing? "Print" a document to the paper, mark it up in a meeting, and have the changes all saved without having to go back and mark it up again on your PC. Alternatively, take the paper to your favorite country getaway, write up a story, and (assuming your handwriting is decently legible) have it automatically OCR'd into text for later editing, without needing to lug a laptop around and all the associated annoyances.

    I dunno, sounds good to me . . .

    • I'll still take real dead trees over electronic paper for my leisure reading, I I think, but how about the opposite application: writing? "Print" a document to the paper, mark it up in a meeting, and have the changes all saved without having to go back and mark it up again on your PC.

      With a touchscreen-enabled piece of electronic paper writing shouldn't pose a problem. Combined with advanced text recognition it might even be superior to regular prints, as the document could be updated on the fly.
    • by lipi ( 142489 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:56AM (#7053042)
      ...but how about the opposite application: writing?

      Xerox has been there, done that:

      "Through a chemical process that Xerox is holding as a trade secret, "each ball is given an electric charge, with more on one side than on the other," Sheridon explains. So when an electric field is applied to the surface of the sheet, the balls are lifted in their oil-filled cells, rotated like the needles of tiny compasses to point either their black or their white hemispheres eyeward, and then slammed against the far wall of the cell. There they stick, holding the image, until they are dislodged by another field. At high voltages, the balls stick before completing their rotation, thus producing various shades of gray. Sheridon's group has also produced red-and-white displays and is working on combining balls of various hues to produce full-color ones.
      But the real goal, Sheridon says, is also the most distant: an electronic surrogate for paper. Engineer Matt Howard hands me a wooden pencil that is plugged into a weak power supply. As I write on the sheet, the tiny electric field conducted through the pencil's graphite core darkens the screen wherever the tip touches. Howard is working on a handheld wand that will receive text and images from a computer and scan them onto a Gyricon page, which would then be annotated, photocopied, erased--but not discarded."

      Copy of the Scientific American article is here [] , but you may find other references.
  • remember those old, cabinet-sized gothic beautiful wooden radios with huge glowing tubes visible from the back? some of you might have only seen them in museums

    did you think to yourself "good gosh, what archaic times" when you saw them? we probably all did

    and then i see news like this, and know how people like us, who grew up with crt screens and space heater-looking computer cases with noisy fans in the back, will be seen as archaic some day ;-P
  • by CherniyVolk ( 513591 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:26AM (#7052804)

    Tired of the bored centerfolds that just sit there?
  • ...what I read in a science-fiction book (can't remember the title now) seemed to be the right future for me.

    A computer the size of matchbox, or something similar. Some pretty, neat shape. One button. Upon pressing, a holographic image of the keyboard and display are created. Follow as with normal computer :) Well, not quite, holographic creation overrides all that standard hardware limitations. Just load the right program and you have any keyboard layout you desire, manipulation by reading your hands posi
  • Did someone say that hard, predictive SF [] was dead?
  • by minnkota ( 576497 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @03:38AM (#7052842)
    Who needs this type of technology?

    Shit, we've had all we need to watch the drawings on our paper move around since 1938!

    Turn on, tune in, drop out!
  • by InsaneCreator ( 209742 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:02AM (#7052918)
    How about "video" car paint? I'm sure noone would notice I don't own 5 different cars or that I'm not really sitting in a Porsche. :)
  • It's clearly not Paper, or electronic Paper.

    These are displays, ultra thin, ultra flat, paperlike. However I suspect that the wood (more accurately cellulose?) content is minimal, and that it does not absorb water, cannot be written on with washable ink or pencils, and cannot be torn easily.

    Surely someone can come up with something better than "electronic paper" anyway. People these buzzwords are designed for (those who don't understand, somehow, and have to have things dumbed down) end up just getting

  • A one page book? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MacFury ( 659201 )
    Since the "paper" can be refreshed with any content...would there be any practical reason for an eBook to have multiple pages? The only reasons I can think of are; to save power by refreshing multiple pages only one time, thus longer battery life, and to transition between the habit of turning pages of a dead tree book.

    Often time I like the tactile feedback of holding a book in my hands. I like that it doesn't make a noise unless I ruffled the pages, no humming fan or whining battery...but, I don't lik

    • deadtree books are a bit better for grokking. Plus, battery, RAM, all that things weight a bit and make that not quite as a single sheet of paper.

      But one-page hard cover book, that wouldn't be so bad :)
    • would there be any practical reason for an eBook to have multiple pages?

      Do you ever have more than one application/window open? Ever want to be able to see them side-by-side or switch back and forth easily and intuitively?
  • by DaneelGiskard ( 222145 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:45AM (#7053008) Homepage
    So if I overclock one of these, "burned out" will finally become a whole new meaning...? :)
  • Voila! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rwaldin ( 318317 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @04:58AM (#7053046)
    Print [] one [] of these [] and you'll have all the magic animated paper you need without electronics or drugs!
  • I foresee a new market growing, the licensing of books. You buy a license for six months, and even if you haven't finished it by then, the text will be erased automaticly...
  • on this by the authors is available here []

    See how the 'shape' of the pixel can determine where the ink goes when voltage is applied. hmm interesting!
  • How many of these digital paper technologies are going to be announced before we actually see them in use in the market?

    I realize that digital paper isn't a total hoax, but it sure feels like one.

    It seems as though the last-mile technical barriers must be really high. Maybe they're having trouble making these things last or making them in quantity?
  • I hope that one day this electronic paper will be used to pass around documents, instead of printed ones. Maybe we save the forests that way.
  • we didn't have no fancy-schmancy digi-ink! We did things the hard way and watched videos on Flip Books []!
  • I prefer Magink (Score:4, Informative)

    by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Thursday September 25, 2003 @09:07AM (#7053939)

    It's also full-color, but it's static so it only draws power when changing the image, it has a refresh rate of up to 70hz (plenty for displays) and it's not backlit (making it behave just like current paper, and again, draws -0- power when not changing the image).

    It sounds like the way to go imo. backlighting may be a required feature for TVs (cultural emphasis on watching movies in the dark) - but for laptops/pdas/cellphones/handheld gaming/etc - it'd easily be a killer tech. yeah, you'd have to have some sort of a front-light (like the new light on the GBA SP) for Eg. dialing in the dark, using your laptop on a plane, etc.

    But having the light only when you need it will save ridiculous quantities of battery power. Imagine your gadget battery lasting 2-3x as long.
    Good stuff.

    article []
  • Does anyone know if (a) the blue eBook is using this technology, and (b) does anyone have links to larger images of these displays? I'm curious about what kind of resolution these things produce; I couldn't find any dpi numbers in the article, but I skimmed it pretty quickly.
  • when you see that chick on the cover of Playboy winking at you and doing a come hither look, you're not going be able to tell if it's that new paper technology, or if it's all that acid you did in the sixties.
  • This sounds like the winner in the PopSci/Core77 design contest: movie polaroids. The "flapping" of the polaroid could theorhetically charge the "battery" and pushing a button would play back what you just recorded. Check out the idea here [].
  • From the article: Its devisers, Robert Hayes and Johan Feenstra...

    Slightly interesting fact: fenestra is latin for Window.

    Feenstra could conceivably be a nederlandisation of fenestra.

    And this technology might be used as computer displays for popular graphical user interfaces?

    The guy was destined to do this! :-D

  • Now that we have this entirely new medium, I'm going to patent the following novel inventions:

    • Displaying text on digital paper so that it appears like normal paper
    • Displaying text on digital paper so that it appears like a computer screen
    • Using pulse-width modulation on digital paper to display shades of grey
    • Using antialiasing to enhance the text on digital paper
    • Using 'subpixel rendering' on digital paper
    • Putting a web browser on digital paper
    • Using hyperlinks on digial paper
    • Using scrollbars on digita
  • If I read the article correctly, the background of the "paper" is white, the ink is on it at all times (and does not move from place to place), but the ink's intensity is controled by how much of a charge is applied: apply greater voltage the ink becomes a smaller, more-spherical droplet, and more of the white background shows through.

    What I wonder, though, is how well this "paper" could show a completely white image on some or all of its surface. With the ink still there, I would imagine it would not be a

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