Friday, August 12, 2005
The wave of the future
Electronic reusable paper.
This stuff is a thin layer of transparent plastic in which millions of small beads, somewhat like toner particles, are randomly dispersed. The beads, each contained in an oil-filled cavity, are free to rotate within those cavities. The beads are "bichromal," with hemispheres of two contrasting colors (e.g. black and white, red and white), and charged so they exhibit an electrical dipole. When voltage is applied to the surface of the sheet, the beads rotate to present one colored side to the viewer. Voltages can be applied to the surface to create images such as text and pictures. The image will persist until new voltage patterns are applied.
This is tremendous -- and I suspect the range of colors and the size and weight will make it a powerful product.
But this type of product will not be limited to the uses IBM proposes (though those uses are very interesting). This type of technology will have a tremendous impact on other industries, too.
Automobiles, for instance. Or home siding. Or boats, RV's, tattoos, carpeting, wallpaper, paints, furniture covers, or cosmetics.
Want to redecorate your house? Go down to your local Radio Shack and pay $149.95 for the newest Ralph Lauren coordinating color scheme cartridge. Plug it in at home, enter the unique password, verified by online check, and presto -- your drab off-white walls are now a warm, cheery beige. Or melon. Or burgundy.
Want to put up a Christmas mural on your home siding? Just purchase one of our $49.95 holiday mural cartridges and plug it in.
Want to change the tile in your bathroom? No problem. Cover stains on your vanilla carpet? We can do that, too.
How about changing the color of the sail on your sailboard/boat/whatever? Easy-peasy.
There's a whole range of potential applications -- and problems, of course (such as the police chasing a red Honda that is able to turn white on command -- though I suspect there will be a counter for such uses, too. Would a car battery and alternator generate enough electricity to enable the change?)
The basic technology would not be that different (okay, maybe for paints and carpets, but maybe not even that). It is simply a matter of figuring out how to incorporate these magic little beads into a whole range of different products. For any product that is currently painted, the beads might simply be dispersed throughout the paint itself. For fabrics, dispersion might be much more difficult; for carpets, it might be well-nigh impossible (particularly due to the rough treatment the average carpet takes on a daily basis).
Hat tip, Southern Appeal.