Paper turns to SmartPaper

"Paper turns to SmartPaper"

The method of turning a simple piece of paper into a smart device relies on RFID tags.

BEACON TRANSCRIPTJust a piece of paper? Not anymore. Paper turns to SmartPaper, as researchers at the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University, and Disney Research have found a way to turn paper into interactive interfaces.

The project is called PaperID and will bring an unexpected player to the mobile devices game. The project was presented this year at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Human-Computer Interaction conference in San Jose, California.

The method of turning the simple and standard piece of paper into a smart device relies on Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. These tags are stuck on, hand-drawn or printed on the paper using a special printer to make it interactive. No batteries are required for them to function. Each tag features a unique identifier, which the reader device is able to identify. With a few RFID tag and a single RFID reader antenna, numerous applications can be created. In just a few seconds, the paper prototype becomes functional. Scientists were able to make knobs, buttons, sliders and other devices out of paper.

Users interact with the device just as with any other touchscreen – through swiping, covering or waving the hand in front of the tags. Tags use custom algorithms to recognize the disturbance and determine the command.

At the low price of approximately 10 cents each, these tags are extremely cheap, making them affordable to anyone. For those who want to create them themselves, it can be done with conductive ink, through stenciling or hand-drawing the antenna patterns on a paper. Tags can also be printed using silver nanoparticle ink.

The usability of the device offers endless possibilities. For example, it can be used in education to create tests with instant results, or for recreational purposes, such as listening to music.

Even though researchers are now using a piece of paper to act as the interface, the idea could be applied to other objects and materials.  What’s exciting about the PaperID is the low-cost aspect of it. Using cheap and universally-found materials, users have the opportunity of connecting with the virtual world. As paper turns to smartpaper, it opens new doors for researchers to turn what used to be expensive technology into an affordable one.