Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Roger Fidler, an interview

As stated in his official bio at the Kent State University ROGER FIDLER is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University. He worked in the newspaper business for more than 34 years (21 years with Knight-Ridder, Inc.) as a journalist, designer, technologist and executive, and has been actively involved in new media development since 1979.

Prior to joining the Kent State faculty in 1996, Fidler served as Director of New Media for Knight-Ridder, Inc., and headed the company’s Information Design Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado (1992-1995). He founded and headed two successful companies — Knight-Ridder Graphics Network (now Knight-Ridder/Tribune Graphics), the first computer-based news graphics service (1983-1987), and PressLink, the first global intranet for the newspaper industry (1985-1991). He also was a key member of Knight-Ridder’s videotex development team, and served as the first director of design for the company’s commercial service known as Viewtron (1979-1983).

I recently interview him for a news article about news devices. Here is a sample of the email interview with him:

More than 20 years after you first visualize the idea of tablet newspapers, do you see it finally coming to a reality?
I wrote the article and created mockups of a magazine-size mobile reading device and digital newspaper in 1981. In that article I predicted that in the year 2000 online media (then we called it videotex) would become commonplace and that mobile reading devices suitable for reading digital editions would emerge. In my book, "Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media" (Pine Forge Press, 1997), I predicted that mobile reading devices would become commonplace by the year 2010. I still believe that is possible.
Tablet PCs and eBook readers have helped to make people more aware of digital books and periodicals, but the devices are still to complex, expensive, heavy and power-hungry to use for casual reading. The E Ink display is the most promising technology available today. The Sony Reader and iRex Iliad are two examples of mobile reading devices with E Ink displays. Both provide a reading experience comparable to ink printed on paper -- they are simple, relatively inexpensive, lightweight and power-efficient (40-hour versus 2-hour duty cycles). Downside is they are only black-and-white (color is at least two years from being commercially available) and they cannot display video (the materials are too slow). I know of several other display technologies under development that can provide color and video, but I don't expect them to be on the market in less than 5 years.

Which are the main lessons from the eMPrint project?
There are lots of people who still enjoy reading a newspaper that is well edited and packaged. The eMprint editions seem to attract readers in all age groupings who are moving away from traditional print for a variety of reason, but do not find reading news in typical Web formats to be particularly enjoyable. We also found that the eMprint format appeals to advertisers because it can provide the display quality of a high-quality slick magazine while also providing the interactive, multimedia features of the Web in a mobile environment.

What can you say about the expansion of wireless networks, will this affect us deeply in the way we interact with media? (always on, always connected devices that will keep us always available for news feeds)
Wireless networks for low bandwidth communications are already pervasive.
Broadband wireless services will remain spotty and expensive for sometime. They have already created a great expectation of instantaneous, personalized news and entertainment that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and anyway.
However, I believe downloaded news and entertainment products will grow in popularity, especially for people who are highly mobile. These scenarios will obviously affect the way we consume news and all societies. How they will affect us is impossible to predict.

What do you think will best serve the purpose for mobile reading, a single use device for reading or a multiple use device (text, voice, music and camera)?
All digital devices will have multiple uses, but each type of device will be optimized for a specific purpose. Some will be optimized for telephony, some for music, some for viewing/listening, and others for reading. The differentiating features in most cases will be display size and resolution, complexity, and power consumption.

What lessons can the publishing industry take from the mobile phone industry, where everything has a fee, in its incursion into the table paper?
Newspapers will need to developed tiered pricing models for readers and
advertisers. Not sure if the mobile phone model will apply to newspapers.

In the newspaper industry, do you see a step forward toward popular acceptance of tablet newspapers with the expanding market of free daily newspapers and the now somehow established web newspapers? Or is it the opposite, a step back?
I believe the future of newspapers is digital. Free daily newspapers represent the industry's last-ditch effort to save their printing presses and distribution networks. They will help newspapers' bottomlines in the short term, but ultimately digital news products and mobile devices will trump mechanical printing.

Have you coined a term that keeps us out of using the word “paper” every time we refer to a newspaper? We need it!
We often continue to use words that no longer accurately describe something.
I still think we'll call digital editions newspapers for quite awhile. I don't have a better word in English.

Epson Develops A6-Size Electronic Paper

Seiko Epson Corp. ("Epson") has successfully developed A6-size (7.1 inches on the diagonal) electronic paper using a plastic substrate. Drawing on Epson's original SUFTLA*1 technology, the new electronic paper achieves Quad-XGA resolution (1536 x 2048 pixels) – the world's highest*2 – and shows the potential for increasing screen size. The development was announced on June 9 at the Society for Information Display (SID) international symposium held in San Francisco.

Epson has long been working to develop and manufacture low-power-consumption, space-saving electronic devices. At the cutting edge of these efforts, R&D has focused on thin, light and flexible devices that can be reshaped as needed, and that can become the technology that drives electronic equipment for a ubiquitous networked society. In the course of such development, Epson has amassed a range of proprietary technologies including low temperature polysilicon thin film transistors (LTPS-TFT) and SUFTLA, which enables the transfer of TFT circuits to flexible substrates.

As outlined below, the new electronic paper draws on a number of original Epson technologies and has a range of features suited to portable displays.

1. World's highest resolution
LTPS-TFT formed on a plastic substrate using SUFTLA technology gives this electronic paper Quad-XGA resolution – the highest in the world. This ensures that even the smallest letters on a portable display are fully visible.
2. High contrast guaranteeing high-quality display
With a contrast ratio of 10:1, the new technology achieves the same levels of visibility as images printed on ordinary paper.
3. Narrow border and simple interface
Forming peripheral drive circuits with LTPS-TFT creates a simple structure with very few external terminals, that result in a borderless flexible display, even with the drive circuits included.
4. Low power consumption
Data display does not require power – a memory function ensures that information does not disappear even if the power is turned off. Maximum drive voltage even for editing information is just 6 volts, showing that the display itself consumes very little power.
5. Larger screen
The expanded screen size, from around 2 inches in existing models*3 to A6 size (7.1 inches on the diagonal), is evidence of potential for even bigger screens in the future.

Epson is proud to announce these research results, which reveal a technology highly suited to making electronic paper a reality. Epson will examine the potential of a range of applications for the technology and conduct further research and development with a view to its practical use.

Prototype Outline

Size: A6 (7.1 inches on the diagonal), 0.47 mm thick
Resolution: QXGA (1536 x 2048 pixels)
Drive circuit: Low temperature polysilicon thin film transistor (LTPS-TFT)
Maximum drive voltage: 6 V
Display type: Electrophoretic (Using electrophoretic devices produced by E Ink Corporation in the U.S.)
*1 Surface Free Technology by Laser Ablation /Annealing (SUFTLA) is a registered trademark of Seiko Epson Corporation
*2 According to information available to Epson
*3 Epson prototypes

E Ink Selects Next-Generation Controller

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Actel Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTL - News) today announced that its flash-based ProASIC3 field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) have been selected by E Ink Corporation for use within its next-generation electronic paper display controllers. Providing the flexibility of re-programmability in a low-cost, low-power, small-footprint device, Actel's single-chip ProASIC3 FPGA will transfer image information from the host processor to active matrix electronic paper displays. E Ink's technology will benefit multiple portable end applications, including consumer handhelds, PDAs, E-books and mobile handsets.

E Ink's electronic paper display technology possesses a paper-like high contrast appearance, ultra-low power consumption and a thin, light form. It provides the viewer the experience of reading from paper, while having the power of updateable information and memory retention even when the display's power is turned off. Key to the design of E Ink's electronic paper display is low power consumption, as battery-operated mobile devices make greatest use of the technology.

"Actel's ProASIC3 FPGA provided E Ink with the flexibility of re-programmability in a small-footprint, single-chip device," said Holly Gates, lead engineer at E Ink. "Further, the live at power-up nature of the device allowed us to meet product specifications and maximize battery life as compared to other FPGA alternatives considered for our electronic paper display technology."

"E Ink's deployment of Actel's single-chip, low-cost ProASIC3 devices in its cutting-edge electronic paper display technology underscores the advantages that nonvolatile FPGAs provide for today's portable applications," said Martin Mason, director of silicon product marketing at Actel. "Providing low power, small footprint and reduced cost on a single chip, Actel's FPGAs uniquely possess a mix of ASIC-like attributes in a reprogrammable FPGA -- features highly sought after by the ever-growing community of portable electronics designers."

About ProASIC3
The industry's lowest cost FPGA solution Actel's live at power-up, low-power, highly secure ProASIC3/E devices deliver PCI performance and are the industry's first FPGAs with on-chip user flash memory. The ten devices in the ProASIC3/E families, ranging in density from 30,000 to 3-million system gates, deliver technology-leading integrated secure in-system programmability (ISP). Building on the success of Actel's flash-based ProASIC Plus family, the fine-grained, single-chip architecture and nonvolatile flash configuration memory make Actel's ProASIC3/E offering a strong ASIC alternative. The ProASIC3/E design methodology supports popular FPGA and ASIC tool flows, reducing time to market and permitting designers to migrate easily between FPGA and ASIC solutions for applications in the consumer, networking and communications, in-cab automotive, computing and avionics markets.

About Actel
Actel Corporation is the leader in single-chip FPGA solutions. The Company is traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol ACTL and is headquartered at 2061 Stierlin Court, Mountain View, Calif., 94043-4655. For more information about Actel, visit http://www.actel.com. Telephone: 888-99-ACTEL (992-2835).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Programmable Tattoos

Programmable tattoo applique with emoticons and messages.

©2003 Greg Daigle and Steve Campbell

Interesting applications for eink matrix:
Finally, a technique for modifying subcutaneous tattoos using special inks has also been patented. It relies upon microencapsulated spheres injected under the skin. Such microencapsulation is typified by eInk's "digital ink" technology for use in electronic paper. A set of drive electrodes manually applied to the skin manipulates the tattoo image electrically.

A preferable design would be for programmable tattoos that were both continuously dynamic and tied into digital data displays. And if we could only avoid the needle!
Inventor Andrew Singer, working for Paul Allen's Interval Research Corporation, had a similar medical application in mind in his 1997 patent for a "programmable subcutaneous visible implant." Also a display chip, it was designed to be implanted just under the skin and display bio-sensing readouts monitoring medical conditions such as diabetes -- though sans nanorobots. The device was designed to save precious time in an emergency.

For under-the-skin implants, the thinner and more flexible the better. A "nano-skin" polymer film was recently shown by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). This flexible polymer infused with billions of carbon nanotubes is seen as making possible incredibly thin and flexible displays. Nanotubes are excellent electrical conductors and several research organizations are exploring their use in flexible screen displays.

In a speculative design that first appeared in Popular Science, tattoos are applied to the skin surface in three successive applications of a breathable cyanoacrylate film matrix similar to Liquid Bandage. First a matrix with conductive microrods is applied. Then a powered pad that aligns the microrods with an electromagnetic field is placed over the skin for a minute until the matrix is dry. This is followed by the application of a layer of digital ink matrix followed by another layer of conductive microrod matrix aligned at right angles to the first.

The WPAN server uses wireless technology such as Bluetooth or UWB (ultra-wide band) to connect the components. But Korean firm KAIST reported this year the use of WPAN chips to achieve data rates of up to 2 megabits a second by sending data signals through the body itself rather than using either Bluetooth or other radio technologies.

via OhMyNews

Thursday, June 01, 2006

HDTV resolution paper?

Editor & Publishert has a good story by Jim Rosenberg and Mark Fitzgerald about epaper. Here an excerpt about Quantum Paper:

Not only can these display technologies be embedded in or printed on the substrate, but recent advances may allow antennas and perhaps entire circuits to be printed on paper or other lightweight and flexible materials. The technologies, in combination with a thin stick-on battery, may permit the substrate iteself to become the "device" - able not only to power itself, but also to receive new content and update its display by wire or wireless connection.

In this area of display research, which could allow the printer of content also to be the manufacturer of the device, the most recent challenger to E-Ink's technology is the invention of another scientist out of MIT. Quantum Paper, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., announced its first production quantities of "electronic paper" earlier this year.

"We're only looking to license 34 printers in the U.S. over the next three years, and only 10 over the next year," says Quantum Paper President and CEO Michael J. Feldman. Quantum's technology uses standard lithographic presses to apply "various types of inks and coatings to build a "15-layer device" on a variety of substrates, including newsprint, creating the same sorts of lightweight, bendable printed products foreseen by E-Ink and Gyricon.

Quantum's display, however, is transmissive rather than reflective.
"We're using conductive inks to make the electrical circuit," says Feldman. An entire sheet or elements thereof may then be illuminated to produce either alphanumeric displays or color pictures utilizing prepress separations.

While applications such as in-store signage would rely on AC power, Feldman says battery-powered samples have been show. Quantum can print batteries along with the rest of the components - a technology Feldman says is three or four years old. "We will be integrating printed batteries into the display by the end of the year," he says.

Integration of a battery into a static display makes practical certain publishing applications, such as high-end advertising inserts. Feldman says to look for this in late 2007 or early 2008. Already, however, a low-resolution monochrome version has been demonstrated.

But beyond that is the dynamic display - "basically television on a piece of paper," Feldman says, adding that a prototype will be ready this summer. By wire or wireless connection, dynamic display could allow a newspaper to be updated throughout the day. At this point, updates are possible using a series of 17-segment displays (16 to produce alphanumeric characters, the seventeenth for a decimal).

Feldman says he wants the technology to advance further before the company talks to non-technical people about applications for publishing. Still, he adds that "we expect to start those discussions in early fall."

The fully addressable, dynamic color displays could replace, at lower cost, conventional phone and PDA screens, computer monitors, interactive billboards, electronic wallpaper and high-definition televisions, according to the company.

Though its display performance "meets or exceeds that of competing technologies," principal inventor and Quantum Paper Chief Technology Officer William J. Ray said in a statement, electronic paper can be made at "such a low cost as to be considered disposable."

The company says its Quantum Paper has resolution equal to HDTV, supports animations, can be scaled to billboard size, consumes little power and has a long lifespan, offers a wide viewing angle, and is environmentally and electrically safe.

More: A Conversation with Quantum Paper’s Michael J. Feldman at Whattheythink.com