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E-Paper May Change the Book Bag Forever!


By Forrest Stone

Imagine holding a single sheet of paper that has every page of all your books on it ... That would be a really, really long sheet of paper, right?

Well, not anymore! There are many different ideas for using technology to make the "printed page" more portable than ever before. Most of these ideas are about one form or another of "e-paper."

One kind of "e-paper" looks and feels a lot like a sheet of paper, but it's really a sheet of plastic that contains thousands and thousands of little capsules. Those tiny capsules – thinner than a human hair – can appear either black or white and respond to electric charges. When the little capsules are lined up in one way, you get, let's say, page 100 of your math textbook. When the little capsules change position, then you get page 101! You are still holding the same "sheet" of "paper," but the information on that "sheet" changes!

This basic idea has some variations. Some new e-paper reflects light, instead of trying to generate it, which makes it different from the kind of portable reading you can do on a PDA or a cell phone.

One company is even developing a process whereby ink is printed onto regular paper, and the ink can change based on electronic commands!

Some ideas for e-paper is to make it interactive, like a touch-screen or stylus device.

Pretty cool, huh?

While the obvious use of e-paper, in the long run, will be to make large amounts of content more and more portable, you can already find one product that's using this kind of technology to make a small amount of information very convenient. The Weather Wizard is about the size of a postcard and shows your local weather forecast. You don't have to plug it into the Internet, or into the wall. It runs for about a year on two AAA batteries (okay, that's not exactly like paper!).

When you get a Weather Wizard, you type in your Zip code, and the machine then gets its weather forecast wirelessly. As you can see in the press release at http://www.ambientdevices.com/cat/press
, the device isn't fancy or complicated – it just tells the weather – but it's pretty cool!

So: Will you only need a single manila folder for all your textbooks in the future? Maybe! (You'll probably find other stuff to make that backpack heavy!)

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