Imagine, just for a moment, if the sharing and collaborative capabilities of Google Docs could be brought into the physical world. It might not work so well for filling in spreadsheets, but for artists and designers collaborating on a drawing or sketching out ideas for an artwork or project, it could combine the benefits of hand-drawing and the instant shareability of the online world, without the need for scanning or importing.
This is the idea behind a paper computing technology proposed by the Naemura Group at the University of Tokyo, which they say is a first step towards a paper-based version of Google Docs (which, I’m unsure whether we need or not). Using a laser (all futuristic things must use lasers), a camera, a computer, and a UV light the system allows you to erase, copy, and print hand-drawn sketches on paper, effectively turning standard paper into an interactive display.
As opposed to just projecting on paper or importing a sketch drawn with a digital pen, this way uses thermo-sensitive ink which disappears when heated, so an image is erased using a laser which heats the ink from behind. To print the image on the paper it uses UV light which the special photochromic paper reacts to, changing colour when it absorbs the light.
At the moment it’s a whole lot of kit just to share a hand-drawn paper sketch but, as always, the tech will become more refined eventually. Tomoko Hashida, from the Naemura Lab, says in the vid, “The idea is to do computing on paper. But in the future, we’d like to enable several people to create one document, like with Google Docs, actually using real-world paper while far apart.”