Electronic Paper: Trying to Improve on the Original - Uses for Electronic Paper
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Would you believe you can wear electronic paper? In April of this year Seiko demonstrated a watch that utilizes an electronic paper display at the Baselworld Watch and Jewelry Show. The design takes advantage of electronic paper’s best features: the display is easy to read, ultra-thin, low power, and flexible; it is integrated into a curved band. But this surprising use for electronic paper may be just the beginning.
Apple’s iPod changed entertainment by making it possible to carry your entire music collection with you and comfortably listen to any of it at any time. Sony’s LIBRe could make it possible to carry your entire library with you and comfortably read any of it at almost any time (though the memory would need to be several times its current size to manage that for me and many of my friends!). Or users could carry a reading device with them and pay a small fee at kiosks to download newspapers and magazines into the device, in much the same way they pay for newspapers at machines now.
That may be some time in the future though. Currently, Fujitsu envisions a number of applications for its paper, which also apply to many of the other types of electronic paper. These include transit advertising on trains, information displays on curved surfaces, and other public display applications. Information displayed could be updated based on the time of day. Electronic paper could also be used for electronic shelf display tags in stores, point-of-purchase displays, and restaurant menus. (Imagine Wal-Mart changing the prices on products in all its stores throughout the world by pressing a single button at headquarters!). In offices, electronic paper could be used for operating manuals (no more changing out pages in loose leaf binders or living with an outdated manual!), work orders, and other short-term information displays.
Until electronic paper solves the issue of not being able to display moving images, it will not be appropriate for most computer screens. Then again, paper itself is normally not used for moving images, so it can hardly be faulted for this. Research into electronic paper will have benefits in other areas, though. With any luck, it will lead to lighter, more flexible computer displays that cause fewer headaches because of decreased problems with glare. While electronic paper all by itself could be a wonderful thing, those of us who spend many hours a day staring at a computer screen would hail these developments as truly life-improving.
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