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Electronic paper, made of charge-sensitive “ink” particles embedded in a thin plastic film, promises lightweight, flexible displays that consume minimal battery power. But e-paper has typically required a layer of electronics behind the film to turn the particles on and off, adding bulk and cost. Now researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center have developed a handheld device that can print information from a computer directly onto e-paper; the device activates the ink particles electrostatically as it’s swiped across the paper’s surface. PARC researchers plan to use the device initially to print on large e-paper whiteboards. In the future, the device could also be used to scan information from the whiteboard into a computer. “The idea of a scanning wand in conjunction with electronic paper is a really important step,” says Nicholas Sheridon, electronic-paper pioneer and research director at Ann Arbor, MI-based PARC spinoff Gyricon. PARC has multiple patents pending on the technology.

Other Prototypes:
Videoconferencing by the Numbers
Identity Antitheft
Digital Doorman
Heart Helper
Cell-Free Proteins
Programmable Window
Curvy Security

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