Design Engineering

Queen’s U researchers develop paper-thin tablet computer

By Design Engineering Staff   

General Human Media Lab Queens University tablet

Intel, Plastic Logic and Queen’s Human Media Lab’s PaperTab debuts a flexible, paper-thin touch-screen computer.

If the iPad is still too thick and rigid for you, researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have created a flexible paper computer developed in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs. The PaperTab tablet looks and acts like a sheet of paper, but is actually a 10.7-inch high-resolution touchscreen display, powered by an Intel Core i5 processor.

In line with the nature of the hardware, the paper metaphor carries through to the user interface. For example, users can display the next (or previous) page of a long document by dog-earing the upper right or left of the flexible tablet. In addition, multiple PaperTabs can be used interactively.

“Using several PaperTabs makes it much easier to work with multiple documents,” says Roel Vertegaal, Director of Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab. “Within five to ten years, most computers, from ultra-notebooks to tablets, will look and feel just like these sheets of printed color paper.”

For example, PaperTab’s interface allows a user to send a photo by tapping one PaperTab showing a draft email with another PaperTab showing the photo. The photo is then automatically attached to the draft email. The email is sent either by placing the PaperTab in a third “out tray”-designated PaperTab, or by bending the top corner of the display. Similarly, a larger drawing or display surface is created by placing two or more PaperTabs side by side.


Unlike traditional tablets, PaperTabs keep track of their location relative to each other, and the user. For example, when a PaperTab is placed outside of reaching distance, it reverts to a thumbnail overview of a document, just like icons on a computer desktop. When picked up or touched, a PaperTab switches back to a full screen page view, similar to opening a window on a computer.

In addition to the PaperTab, Queen’s University Human Media Lab’s inventions include ubiquitous eye tracking sensors, the world’s first flexible phone and a pseudo-holographic teleconferencing system, TeleHuman.


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