Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana


One big benefit of Google are the technical talks - in this way the Google campus feels a lot like a college campus. Thursday I saw a talk by Joseph Jacobsen from MIT Media Lab on e-paper. I remember reading about e-paper in magazines 10 or more years ago, and finding the idea absolutely fascinating, but haven't heard much about it since then outside of Neal Stephenson's nanotech dystopia and other science fiction. But here are working prototypes - printed e-ink and even transistors - that can be cut, punctured, crumpled, and powered down and still show text or images, even color, up to 50 frames a second.

The talk was mostly focused on the technology and fabrication process, but most of the questions involved applications and social implications. Can you make solar cells? (Yes.) What about digital ink pens? (Yes.) What are the environmental impacts? (E-ink is made of titanium dioxide and carbon, which is what paper is made of anyway. The printed chips were first made of cadmium selenide, and now are made of pure silicon.) When can I buy something with this in it? (Soon a bunch of things will be coming out. In Tokyo, you can buy Dynavision ebooks now; they'll be in the US the beginning of next year.) How long does it take to make a stamp for mass-production? (Stamps are made with conventional lithography, which takes about 8 hours for a typical stamp.) What is the defect rate? (It's high, but you include lots of redundancy.) Have you thought about windshields and other clear displays? (Yes - transparency is part of the chemistry. The power consumption and failure states need to be worked out, though.)

I can imagine many applications for this, some positive (cheap, bendable computer displays and even computers, for one), some negative (pervasive animated advertisements, increased power consumption, etc.). What do you think?

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