It's a question that some science fiction novelists have most likely thought about. How interactive can a single piece of paper be in the future? Could we develop paper that we can digitally interact with and use? Almost like in Harry Potter when you see a newspaper that has moving images on it, or in the cancelled Syfy show Caprica, where paper can be used to send a text message over WiFi. That might actually be a possibility in the near future. 

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Credit: Disney Research

Engineers at the University of Washington with the contribution of Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University has developed paper that will respond to gestures and could be connected to the internet. They are calling it Paper ID and have published the work under the title:  A Technique for Drawing Functional Battery-Free Wireless Interfaces on Paper

Lead author of the study, Hanchuan Li, who is a doctoral student in computer science and engineering at UW, said: "Paper is our inspiration for this technology. A piece of paper is still by far one of the most ubiquitous mediums. If RFID tags can make interfaces as simple, flexible and cheap as paper, it makes good sense to deploy those tags anywhere." 

The researchers use inexpensive ultra-thin battery-free radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to create "paper input devices" as they have put it. The researchers say their physical constraints have been issues such as circuit size, wiring and power. However, the researchers have worked past these problems using the RFID tags that can pick up gestures and movement around the antennas that have been printed. Li says, "These little tags, by applying our signal processing and machine learning algorithms, can be turned into a multi-gesture sensor. Our research is pushing the boundaries of using commodity hardware to do something it wasn't able to do before." 

As a result, the technology already shows amazing promise, and with Disney Research as a contributor, we're sure there is no lack of money with pushing smart-paper forward. It could have many different uses in many different industries. 



Source: University of Washington 

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