DAILY NEWS Jan 22, 2013 9:39 AM - 0 comments

Paper Tablets, Roll-up TV Screens Coming to Crossmedia TO

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Coming soon to a screen near you – the future of screens.

A flexible yet high quality TV screen is one of technology’s Holy Grails.

For a decade or more, engineers have been trying to develop a display screen that acts like a huge sheet of paper.

Some of the industry’s biggest and most resourceful companies have been on the quest, but it could be that students and researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario have found a workable answer.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, they launched a device known as the PaperTab tablet, created as a joint project with Queen’s Human Media Lab, Intel Labs and UK-based Plastic Logic. The 10.7-inch PaperTab is designed to feel like a sheet of paper, featuring an interactive, and flexible, high-resolution touch screen display.

Leading the team is Roel Vertegaal, an advanced interactive technologies designer Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at Queen's, and director of the Human Media Lab, where the screen was developed

Vertegaal will describe the display and some of its anticipated uses in a keynote talk at this year’s Crossmedia TO.

Crossmedia TO is an annual conference that brings the most innovative digital media and technology companies in motion, mobile, marketing, publishing and games to Toronto.

“Crossmedia TO 2013 is delighted to have Roel speak to our delegates hot off the heels of the PaperTab tablet launch. This year’s conference has attracted the most innovative individuals in the industry to share their collective knowledge as they themselves are testing the trends and developing the technology. You can’t get more cutting edge than that,” said Gavin McGarry, President of Jumpwire Media.

One of the challenges in making a flexible screen that Vertegaal has faced is how to light up the thousands and thousands of individual pixels that make up an on-screen image. Big screen TVs – even handheld smartphones – use some sort of side, back or additional illumination to get a pixel to show.

But new technologies open up the idea that each pixel should generate its own light. It won’t need any other illumination source, thus reducing device size and increasing screen flexibility and shape options.

The team at Queen’s are tackling these issues head on, and they’ve unveiled both the prototype and technical underpinning for what’s now called the PaperTab.

It’s flexible display that not only shows text, graphics and media content, but is actually used to control the device itself, much like a keyboard is used today.

The technology is still in its early stages, but the folks at Queen’s are convinced that flexible screens are the way things are going- not just for smartphones, but tablets and ultimately large screen TVs.

”This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this in five years,” predicts Vertegaal.

Dr. Vertegaal and his team showed a somewhat small version of a Paper Phone recently, calling it a computer that “looks, works and feels like an interactive sheet of paper”. It can be safely folded, and it accepts typed, touched or penned input commands from the user.

Or try a ‘bend gesture’.

By folding down a top left corner, for example, a standardized command input can be generated. Fold up the corner, another command or navigation direction is given to the device.

Tech giant Samsung has shown a tablet-smartphone hybrid concept that can be rolled up like a newspaper or opened up and unfolded for more demanding computer tasks.

Sony, too, has shown a very thin rollable screen that can be packed into a simple tube.

The tech specs are not good at this point, but the screen has been shown with streaming video running on it, even as it was rolled up and out over and over again.

Even top engineers, as excited as they are to be able to get this far, acknowledge that the concept is not ready for prime time TV - yet.

But like Vertegaal’s team, they say, “This is the future.”

Along with Vertegaal, also confirmed to speak at this year’s Crossmedia TO conference are Erik Martin, General Manager, reddit.com, Mark Ghuneim, CEO/Founder of Wiredset and Trendrr, Brian Eoff, Data Scientist, Bitly, Rhonda McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Jeffrey Remedios, President and Co-Founder, Arts & Crafts, Paul Kontonis, GM, Magnet Media Originals and Chairman of the Board of Directors, International Academy of Web Television, Ipsa Desai, Strategic Partnerships Google and political heavyweight Paul Sparkes now Executive Vice-Chairman and co-founder of Difference Capital.

The conference will be held on February 21, 2013 at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon inside the Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge Street.

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