Paper is strange. The thin material produced by compressing pulp from wood and grass is used for everything; packaging, cleaning, and of course, writing, being one of the most common uses.
The idea of a paperless world is – for now – amusing, to say the least. The big IT giants have tried – and tried hard – to make everything digital, but it doesn’t always work out. The physical aspect of information is lost; it can get quite difficult to organize information without the physical link to it.
The Paperless Paper
Microsoft’s latest patent takes us to the world of Harry Potter – but not quite. The recently published patent describes a bendable bi-stable e-ink display that’s quite a bit different from the usual kind.
The Usual Kind
The e-ink display is unique, in that once information is fed to it – it stays, even if the display loses power; power is only required when the display is being refreshed with new information.
It’s how Amazon’s Kindle – and other eBook readers of its kind – manage to have a single charge last for a month.
Microsoft is taking a different approach with this existing technology. The idea is to separate the e-ink display from the electronics and batteries that power it.
As mentioned, the e-ink display doesn’t need either of these things to display its content; Microsoft’s idea, therefore, includes a printer that is capable of printing on this e-ink display.
Since the e-ink display has no electronics or batteries of its own, it would be bendable – but more importantly, cheap to manufacture.
To change the content of the display, users would simply need to put it through the accompanied printer. It’s re-writeable paper, like re-writeable discs.
The patent describes an idea that – once you hear it – seems obvious; why did nobody else think of this before?
The idea of a paperless office has always been a dream – and it still is; Microsoft’s patent simply removes yet another barrier.
It is, however, just that – a patent. There’s no guarantee that this would ever be a product. Though, a re-writeable paper has the protentional to be as ubiquitous as, well, paper; if Microsoft wanted to, it could refine and push this technology into its already-strong enterprise ecosystem.
It would be nice to see a paperless office within our lifetime; everyone will, however, need to get used to a bidet. You can check out the patent over here.