Technology and it’s potential
We’re incredibly excited to for the first time in history, to connect paper to the internet.
How is this done?
First you need to remove the wires. This is done by conductive inks which according to WikiPedia:
“Allow circuits to be drawn or printed on a variety of substrate materials such as polyester to paper. These types of materials usually contain conductive materials such as powdered or flaked silver and carbon like materials”
What’s really interesting is that, just like wires or metal plates, conductive inks enable capacitive touch functionality to be added to both sides of the paper. So you can touch one side of standard print and know where you’ve touched.
You need to connect the conductive inks to semiconductor devices that enable internet connectivity. There a lots of ways to do this and this is the exciting area for future development. At the moment we use a bit of digital smoke and mirrors to connect the paper wirelessly to a server within a wireless range. It is this server that talks to the internet. These semiconductor devices currently have to use standard circuit boards (albeit very small and flat) in order to operate. In the future, and the hopefully the very near future, we will be able to colder solder (or glue) these components directly onto the paper. We use the same chip as was in an apple ii and is now found in greeting cards to add iPad like cap touch to paper, add to that a Bluetooth 4 chip and your paper is now on the Internet, tech wise it’s that simple, the hard bit is creating a process to bring all these tech and skills together and creating a platform that designers can work with as easy as putting paint on paper with a brush.
And possibly in the medium to far future, we will be able to print components directly onto paper. This is very early stages (with simple transistor combinations working – think ‘transistor’ radio rather than iPad!).
Our technology partner Novalia is leading the printing of conductive inks using standardised lithe printing methods – which makes the potential for reaching mass markets that much more closer and we’re excited about what this gives a research project that is demonstrating the potential to the world.
How will I experience the web through paper?
The main functionality that we can build is twofold. Firstly, we can attached audio files to a newspaper – you touch a button and sound is played. Through community led design workshops we have identified wireless headphones as the preferred way to experience the audio. However, it could be through a radio, through speakers in the paper or through other media on you or in your home (think phone, tablet or digital TV).
The big challenge is going from batch to mass production – at the moment we’re doing the soldering (cold or otherwise) and for this to work, it needs to be machines picking and placing the components onto the paper. Then we have something that can reach the millions.