Even though I spend all day sat in front of a PC tapping away on a keyboard, I still have a pen and paper pad on my desk for quick notes. Post-It notes remain popular because they can easily be stuck somewhere to ensure you notice them, there’s also no real alternative to replace them yet. However, Microsoft may be about to.
A team at Microsoft Research has created a new so-called situated display (PDF). It’s basically a small screen about the size of a Post-It note, which can easily be moved around and stuck on to surfaces. The display tech it uses is ePaper, with power coming from integrated solar cells. Importantly, the solar cells can generate energy from indoor lighting not just daylight. The end result is an electronic note that never needs plugging in and charging.
These electronic sticker displays are updated from a smart device such as a smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth. Where it gets interesting is the types of information that can be displayed. A standard sheet of paper can hold a static piece of information, these displays can be told to display the weather, for example, and to update at regular intervals. You could do the same with sports results, stock prices, use it as a countdown timer, or take advantage of the output for augmented reality purposes.
The resolution of the display is low, but then you don’t need it to be any higher at this screen size and type of information display. Whether it makes it beyond the prototype stage is up to Microsoft, though. A lot will depend on how much it costs to produce them and whether a company such as Post-It note maker 3M shows any interest in mass production.
If you could buy a pack of 5 or 10 of these things knowing they never need charging and they cost no more than a few dollars each, I bet they’d be very popular. And I really can’t see them costing that much to make. Inside there’s a flexible solar panel, a thin film battery, printed circuit board display, Bluetooth low-energy module, a grid of pixel electrodes, and a small sheet of E Ink all stuck together using lamination.