PaperTab Brings (Interactive) Paper Back to the (Physical) Desktop

PaperTab Brings (Interactive) Paper Back to the (Physical) Desktop

New technology from Plastic Logic, Intel and researchers from Queen’s University in Ontario is placing a high-tech spin on old-school paper, and in the process they’re giving a whole new meaning to juggling windows on your desktop. PaperTab, “a flexible paper computer,” fills your desk — your actual, physical desk — with ten or more sheets of interactive 10.7-inch plastic displays that purportedly look and feel just like paper.

Eschewing traditional controls, PaperTab’s interface revolves largely around tapping sheets against one another to open apps or functions, while you can manipulate open apps by bending, folding, and dog-earing each sheet.

The PaperTab system is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and identifies the location of each display using an electromagnetic tracker. The information on each display changes depending on how close it is to the user, with in-hand PaperTabs acting as fully open windows complete with images and text, while far-away sheets change to show the icon its open app. If you pick a far-away sheet back up, it reverts back to full window mode, with all information returning to the screen. The video below shows off the technology in action.

The developers claim the PaperTab system can replace traditional paper and computer monitors alike with its flexible, interactive plastic sheets. Color us a bit more bearish; while the system indeed looks and sounds intuitive in practice, it’s hard to imagine office workers ditching their svelte tablets and PCs in favor of a system that clutters entire desks with ten-plus sheets of plastic. That being said, Plastic Logic’s flexible “paper” technology is intriguing in its own right, even though the display technology looks on par with early stage e-ink at the moment.

Plastic Logic and the Queen’s Univeristy Human Media Lab will be showing off the PaperTab system at CES tomorrow. The technology doesn’t appear to be headed toward consumers anytime soon.