A simple table can be a profound tool for collaboration, so it’s particularly disappointing that we haven’t yet solved the puzzle of how to effectively digitize that experience. Microsoft’s original Surface table was cool, but expensive, and newer options like Lenovo’s Horizon PC still haven’t taken off. But Tokyo-based design firm Takram has one idea that might help us achieve interactive digital tables (and other surfaces): Just use paper. Last year it developed a concept called “On the Fly Paper” for Intel’s Collaboration Center in Japan, which uses an infrared sensor and specially formatted pieces of paper to manipulate a projected computer display. Basically, the paper acts as an input device: As soon as you place it on the table, the projected image changes both on the table and the paper itself. You can also manipulate things by moving the paper around and covering physical holes. What’s truly remarkable is that your interactions with it register almost as quickly as a touch screen. Check out a brief demonstration below.
Intel brought the demo to its new Taipei concept store at the Syntrend tech mall, which also happens to be its public debut. Previously, only Intel engineers and special guests to its Japanese Collaboration Center were able to see it. Takram has developed five special cards for the demo so far, including one that lets you interact with the periodic table of the elements, one that displays photos and another that plays movies.
To be clear, On the Fly Paper doesn’t require a table: It can work anywhere an image can be projected, so it could conceivably be used right alongside standard business presentations. It’s just a concept right now, but since it doesn’t rely on much specialized hardware it shouldn’t be tough for Takram to release it as an actual product (or, more likely, license it to someone else).