The Future of Paper

Various uses for paperEnder’s Game introduces computerized desks where students look up information, organize their homework, and yet still have to print their assignments. Leap Frog has a second generation “pen computer” which uses special FLY paper as a digital tablet. The pen computer from Livescribe even adds sound recording and playback. Digital napkins are being proposed for engineering doodling. Printer paper is getting the “ink” embedded into it instead of in cartridges with Zink. E-Ink is the catchphrase for use in low power digital displays. With so many paper and ink variants coming out, what is it we really want?

The paperless office hasn’t really taken over. While many pieces of paper no longer show up on our desks, such as bills and bank statements, we still have a need for paper. The easy ability to view its contents, compare side-by-side, pass around, mark up, doodle on, send flying across the room, and so much more have yet to be obsoleted by digital equivalents. In particular, writing on paper by hand is something you can do anywhere, but once written it is a bit ephemeral. With something like Leap Frog’s pen computer downloading and editing becomes easy, but requires specialized paper.

Any real paper replacement needs to do what paper does, and do it better. New paper needs to allow for editing, erasing, and for those doodle sessions during meetings. Hiding and animating those doodles would be nice. Importing the contents to a computer for further editing gets challenging. Is the imported content text, diagrams, doodles, or a combination of all those. Today handwriting recognition is pretty primitive, and cursive is quite a stretch. Diagrams need to become editable figures, and text searchable. A paper replacement should allow for instant copying. Just tell it to send, and anyone who wants a copy takes it into their own digital paper. A single piece of paper should be able to display many different pages, be easy to duplicate, archive, and edit. We might have to give up on converting the new paper into paper airplanes, but it would definitely make for interesting origami paper.

What do you see digital paper requiring?

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