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CES 2013: PaperTab Tablet Boasts Flexible Display

U.K. display technology researchers join Intel and Canada's Queen's University to develop 'paper' tablets.
CES 2013: 7 Standout Technologies
CES 2013: 7 Standout Technologies
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A company founded by researchers from Cambridge University in the U.K. is part of a team claiming to be taking tablet computing to the next level. Plastic Logic has formed an alliance with Intel and the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Canada to develop a 'paper-thin' (and just as flexible) mobile computing device. This was unveiled to the media at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

The PaperTab tablet feels just like a sheet of paper yet is equipped with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7-inch plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, with an interactive touchscreen.

The device is lightweight and robust so it can be pushed around on a desk while providing a magazine-like reading experience. By bending one side of the display, users can also navigate through pages like a magazine without needing to press a button. Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have 10 or more interactive displays or 'PaperTabs' -- one per app in use.

[ For more innovating products at this year's consumer gadget-fest, see CES 2013: What We Want To See. ]

"Our flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction," said Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Plastic Logic. "They allow a natural human interaction with electronic paper, being lighter, thinner and more robust compared with today's standard glass-based displays."

The PaperTab device is powered by Intel's second-generation Core i5 Processor. Intel has described the development as being a significant advance in its efforts to explore disruptive user experiences, and it claims that within 5-10 years 'most computers' will resemble sheets of printed color paper.

The intuitive interface allows a user to send a photo simply by tapping one PaperTab showing a draft email with another PaperTab showing the photo. The photo is then automatically attached to the draft email. The email is sent either by placing the PaperTab in an out tray or by bending the top corner of the display.

Similarly, a user can create a larger drawing or display surface by placing two or more PaperTabs side by side. In this way the device emulates the natural handling of multiple sheets of paper by combining thin-film display, thin-film input and computing technologies through intuitive interaction design.

The PaperTab can file and display thousands of paper documents, replacing the need for a computer monitor and stacks of papers or printouts. Unlike traditional tablets, PaperTabs keep track of their location relative to each other and to the user, providing a seamless experience across all apps as if they were physical computer windows. For example, when a PaperTab is placed outside of reaching distance, it reverts to a thumbnail overview of a document, just like icons on a computer desktop. When picked up or touched, the PaperTab switches back to a full screen page view, just like opening a window on a computer.

Since Plastic Logic was founded by researchers from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, the company claims to have been at the forefront of research and investment into plastic electronics. It boasts a series of technological breakthroughs, including the production of high-quality color rugged plastic displays.

Market analyst firm Gartner recently predicted that by 2016 around 40% of the global workforce will be mobile, with two-thirds owning at least one smartphone or tablet device.

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