Researchers develop ‘smart’ touch-responsive internet-enabled newspaper


My European speaking tour (ending today) has had two primary themes: crowdsourcing and the future of corporate IT. However at a couple of points, notably a guest lecture to Moscow’s Higher School of Economics’ School of Journalism, I have delved into the future of media. As always, my well-known Newspaper Extinction Timeline has come up as a hot topic of discussion.

One of things I always have to point out is that we should not be comparing newspapers with the tablets of today when we think about the choices people will make in how they access news. Tablets similar to those of today will be given away for free and digital paper which has all the qualities of today’s paper plus the advantages of digital at a low cost will be the alternative.

The e-ink initiatives have some way to go, however it seems there are other paths to this outcome, as shown in this video.

In a post on BBC College of Journalism website Paul Egglestone of University of Lancashire’s school of journalism writes:

We are developing an entirely new platform for community news and information by connecting paper to the internet to create what is believed to be the world’s first internet-enabled newspaper.

The aim of the new technology is to bridge the digital gap, giving people access to the internet through a new platform, and also to encourage new forms of community news, communication and social engagement.

The platform is capable of ‘capacitive touch interactions’ – which means that by touching various parts of the page readers can activate content ranging from audio reports to web polls or advertising – all contained within the paper itself.

But the developments in printed electronics do not stop there. Digital devices and microphones, buttons, sliders, colour -hanging fibres, LED text displays and mobile communication can all be used in an interactive newspaper.

The research project is called Interactive Newspaper, which says:

Interactive paper is a type of “smart” paper. It is responsive to a human touch – the images or text printed on it can change, or play a sound once a certain area on the surface is pressed. This means that sheets of paper can turn into interactive displays. For example, imagine a community news poster with an interactive title. This could be designed to advertise and illustrate articles read aloud at the push of embedded buttons around the edge of the poster. The title text could show the times of forthcoming community events or meetings. Alternatively, imagine a home notice board display or picture frame containing active paper to which community club members could broadcast club news in short SMS text messages and voicemails.

The focus on community news is particularly interesting, as this is one of the key areas in the future of news-on-paper. It depends if we call this new media ‘paper’ or not, but digital enabled platforms will absolutely be how we get our news.