Just when you thought paper couldn’t get any better, scientists and inventors are constantly looking for new ways to combine modern technology with this traditional material to create new and exciting ways of using it. The latest comes from Researchers at the University of Washington, who worked with Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University.

Together, they have created a new kind of smart paper called PaperID. The paper contains small radio frequency (RFID) tags, costing only 10 cents a piece, that can be printed into the paper, stuck onto it or drawn onto it using a conductive ink pen. The RFID tags don’t rely on batteries or wires to work, making them really easy to incorporate within the smart paper. The tags are detected by a reader device that must be kept nearby.

With the help of signal processing and machine learning algorithms, the RFID tags can sense certain gestures from the user and perform a given action in response to this gesture. This can be as simple as a gesture of the hand, or using a paper tool such as a wand containing RFID tags to control the tempo and rhythm of music, for example.

There are seven different types of interactions that can be achieved using this technology, depending on how it is designed and what the user wants to achieve.

• Waving

• Swiping

• Touching

• Covering

• Free air tag motion

• Sliding

• Turning

When the user performs any of these actions, the signal between the tag and the reader is interrupted. Based on the gesture that has taken place, the machine learning algorithms recognise the specific command that needs to be responded to, and performs an action based on this. Working in this way, the technology can create a multi-gesture sensor, to perform a range of actions. Plus, each RFID tag has a unique identification, so in a room with many RFID tags and readers, an individual reader antenna can pick out its specific tags without confusion.

The researchers have proposed a number of different applications for this smart paper, including lighting controls, interactive pop-up books for children, and polling technology for classroom tests. The example mentioned earlier of controlling the tempo of music can be achieved as the tags can also recognise the speed that the object performing the gesture is moving at.

It is thought that this technique can move beyond paper in the future, so there is plenty of potential for PaperID to revolutionise more than just paper.

Source: Forbes