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Announcement: Hardware Innovations

Included in this category of Objects for Study are hardware inventions or devices that bear thinking about for their possible impact on online reading practices. Also included for historical perspective are some hardware innovations of past media revolutions (e.g., vellum, the codex book).

Amazon Kindle Transliteracies Research Report

“Three years ago, we set out to design and build an entirely new class of device–a convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. The result is Amazon Kindle.

We designed Kindle to provide an exceptional reading experience. Thanks to electronic paper, a revolutionary new display technology, reading Kindle’s screen is as sharp and natural as reading ink on paper–and nothing like the strain and glare of a computer screen. Kindle is also easy on the fingertips. It never becomes hot and is designed for ambidextrous use so both “lefties” and “righties” can read comfortably at any angle for long periods of time.

We wanted Kindle to be completely mobile and simple to use for everyone, so we made it wireless. No PC and no syncing needed. Using the same 3G network as advanced cell phones, we deliver your content using our own wireless delivery system, Amazon Whispernet. Unlike WiFi, you’ll never need to locate a hotspot. There are no confusing service plans, yearly contracts, or monthly wireless bills–we take care of the hassles so you can just read.

With Whispernet, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. Similarly, your content automatically comes to you, wherever you are. Newspaper subscriptions are delivered wirelessly each morning. Most magazines arrive before they hit newsstands. Haven’t read the book for tomorrow night’s book club? Get it in a minute. Finished your book in the airport? Download the sequel while you board the plane. Whether you’re in the mood for something serious or hilarious, lighthearted or studious, Kindle delivers your spontaneous reading choices on demand.

And because we know you can’t judge a book by its cover, Kindle lets you download and read the beginning of books for free. This way, you can try it out–if you like it, simply buy and download with 1-Click, right from your Kindle, and continue reading. Want to try a newspaper as well? All newspaper subscriptions start with a risk-free two-week trial.

Kindle’s paperback size and expandable memory let you travel light with your library. With the freedom to download what you want, when you want, we hope you’ll never again find yourself stuck without a great read.” (Amazon.com)

Starter Links: The Kindle on Amazon.com | Wikipedia article on the Kindle

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Renee Hudson

KNFB Readers for the Visually Impaired

The KNFB Classic Reader was developed by Ray Kurzweil in association with the National Federation of the Blind and Envision Technology. About the size of a PDA, the reader uses a camera to take pictures of text and and using text-to-speech technology, reads the content aloud. The user can store information for future reference and transfer the information to a computer.

The company also offers a mobile reader for the Nokia N82 phone. In addition to the reader functions, users can access the phone and PDA functions of the device.

Starter Links: KNFB Announcement on Envision’s web site | A Washington Business Journal article detailing plans to release a cell-phone based reader | KNFB Reading Technology Inc. home page | Classic Reader page on KNFB web site | Mobile Reader on KNFB web site


“BiblioRoll is a device for the reading activity in ubiquitous computing environment. BiblioRoll is shaped cylindrical with scroll interaction and a display divided into three, which suggests a different appearance from traditional books. With this device, users can read by combining or comparing with the information from the books they have or from the ones spread everywhere. In addition, it is possible to put meta-data on them. BiblioRoll enables to treat
these operations easily in a hand. Therefore, it makes users experience a totally different way of reading from traditional books or e-books. Using BiblioRoll gives not only an experience of reading but a new experience of gaining knowledge.” (Okude Laboratory website)

Starter Links: Okude Laboratory website | BiblioRoll concept page

HP’s Misto Coffee Table PC

“Misto is a coffee table with a large touch-screen display built into the top of the table. The idea is to allow a group to congregate around the table and share pictures, play board games, or peruse a map, said Pere Obrador, project manager in HP’s imaging technology department.” (CNet News.com)

Starter Links: CNet article | Gizmodo post |

PCs for Poets

An Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC), the PC for Poets was designed by Crispin Jones. With the goal of marrying technology and traditional craftmanship, Jones designed the PC for Poets as both a visual and tactile artifact. It is modeled after traditional Japanese writing boxes, with all surfaces receiving equal design attention. Both the top and bottom are designed to be aesthetically and tactilely appealing and to engage the attention of those surrounding the PC user. The interface has no buttons or keyboard and is operated solely using tablet technology.

Starter Links: The project page at Mr. Jones’ website | we make money not art writeup | UMPC.com

Wacom’s Penabled Pens

Wacom’s Penabled pens replace many standard tablet PC pens. Cordless and battery-free, Wacom’s Penabled technology is pressure sensitive and reacts to a range of pressures. The pen additionally has an erase feature.

Starter Links: Wacom Penabled website

Sony E-Reader Transliteracies Research Report

“Slated to debut in the spring of 2006, the Sony Reader marks a key example of the next generation of commercial eBooks. While previous eBooks suffered criticism for their bulky appearances, hard-to-read screens, and limited availability of downloadable works, Sony claims to have resolved these problems through its use of new technologies that include e-ink, “electronic paper,” and a “CONNECT store” from which customers can purchase various downloadable texts. At the time of this writing, the product has not yet been released, but the pre-release reviews of the Reader have been extremely positive across a variety of technology-centered forums.” (from Lisa Swanstron’s Research Report)

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Lisa Swanstrom

The Tilty Tables Transliteracies Research Report

The Tilty Tables are part of Xerox PARC’s reading experiments of 2000. The experiment consists of three “tilty tables” that explore different aspects of reading. Tilty Table #1, The Reading Table, provides a non-linear interface to a text as a way to explore reading extraordinarily large documents. The second, The Tall Tale Table, uses the syntactical rules of the English language in order to construct nonsense tales. The Peace Table, the third in the experiment, translates the word “peace” into different languages as a way of exploring whether reading can bring about peace on Earth.

“There are three Tilty Tables placed across the front of the gallery. Each Tilty Table is a three-by-three-foot-wide white square resting on a metal podium. The table is attached in such a way as to allow it to be tilted in all directions. Projected on to the white surface of each table is a high-resolution image, so that it appears as if the table is itself a glowing screen. When visitors tilt the table the images on its surface change in direct response.

How does it work? The tables sit on pneumatic shock absorbers, much like the ones used in cars to smooth out the ride. Also under each table is a digital device called “an accelerometer” which measures how quickly something is getting faster or slower. (Acceleration means rate of change. For example, a car going from 0 to 60 is accelerating. A car moving at a steady 60 miles per hour is not accelerating at all.) As it turns out, an accelerometer can also measure tilt, much the same way that the bubble in a carpenter’s level can measure tilt. This is because gravity is really acceleration (as Newton discovered 400 years ago). The tilt information from the accelerometers is sent to computers that use this information to determine the correct image to send to the video projectors. These projectors are mounted in the ceiling and are precisely aligned with the tables beneath them so that the images fill the white surface of the tables.” (Matt Gorbet, 2000)

Starter Links: tilty tables

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

PVPro Laser Projection Technology (Pocket-Sized Digital Projectors)

New generation of small digital projectors (standalone or built into mobile devices) using
PVProâ„¢ laser projection technology from Light Blue Optics.

“Laser projection using computer-generated holograms (CGHs) represents a compelling alternative to conventional image projection. Video projectors based on this CGH technology are efficient and require only a very few components, which means they can be made very small—and the smaller the CGH, the bigger the image that results. So a tiny projector producing large images could, for the first time, be integrated into a laptop, a PDA, or even a mobile phone.” (from Light Blue Optics home page)

Starter Links: Light Blue Optics home page | Images of projector: 1, 2

Thermo Rewrite

Rewritable thermal recording material developed by Mitsubishi Paper Mills Limited.

“Unlike other rewritable systems, e.g., transparent-opaque types, Thermo Rewrite uses Leuco dye in a coloring/decoloring process for its imaging (Thermo Rewrite is therefore classified as a Leuco type rewritable material). This primary difference from other rewritable materials allows a high-contrast and high-resolution image. Toughness is also a big advantage of Thermo Rewrite. With the use of an adequate printer set, a print/erase durability of more than one thousand times would be possible. Thanks to these great advantages, Thermo Rewrite is expected to be used not only for card applications but also for various other fields.” (From Mitsubishi Paper Mills Ltd.)

Starter Links: Mitsubishi Paper Mill’s Thermo Rewrite | Wikipedia entry on Leuco Dye

The Virtual Retinal Display

With the VRD a new technique of Head Mounted Displays evolve that don’t produce a real image on a physical screen any more, but project a virtual image directly onto the retina. They promise on the long run, low costs, light weight and higher resolutions which might make convenient reading possible for the first time in the history of HMDs.

“The VRD was invented at the University of Washington in the Human Interface Technology Lab (HIT) in 1991. The development began in November 1993. The aim was to produce a full color, wide field-of-view, high resolution, high brightness, low cost virtual display. Microvision Inc. has the exclusive license to commercialize the VRD technology. This technology has many potential applications, from head-mounted displays (HMDs) for military/aerospace applications to medical society.

The VRD projects a modulated beam of light (from an electronic source) directly onto the retina of the eye producing a rasterized image. The viewer has the illusion of seeing the source image as if he/she stands two feet away in front of a 14-inch monitor. In reality, the image is on the retina of its eye and not on a screen. The quality of the image he/she sees is excellent with stereo view, full color, wide field of view, no flickering characteristics. Using the VRD technology it is possible to build a display with the following characteristics:

* Very small and lightweight, glasses mountable * Large field of view, greater than 120 degrees * High resolution, approaching that of human vision * Full color with better color resolution than standard displays * Brightness sufficient for outdoor use * Very low power consumption * True stereo display with depth modulation * Capable of fully inclusive or see through display modes” (from the NPS Article)

Starter Links:
Microvision|Product video|NPS Article

The IPod as Ebook ProjectTransliteracies Research Report

With better display quality, more storage space and a very sophisticated web infrastructure to support it, the IPod is growing into a multipurpose device for different kinds of media, that exceeds the original intention of a mp3 player by far.

The IPod video is much more than a mp3 player. In fact, it is a full-sized computer that is even able to have a version of linux installed. With video and audio podcasts there is a new way to handle content transfer of any kind. Furthermore, the IPod can be used as a ebook. With the IPodulator websites can be viewed and several books like for example the bible can be heard and read on the IPod on the go.

Starter Links:

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Marc Breisinger

FogScreenTransliteracies Research Report

New digital projection display device; UCSB’s Four Eyes Lab is currently working on adding interactivity to it:

“The FogScreen is a new invention which makes objects seem to appear and move in thin air! It is a screen you can walk through! The FogScreen is created by using a suspended fog generating device, there is no frame around the screen. The installation is easy: just replace the conventional screen with FogScreen. You don´t need to change anything else – it works with standard video projectors…. With two projectors, you can project different images on both sides of the screen.” (from Fogscreen company site)

Starter Links: Fogscreen home page | UCSB Four Eyes Lab’s Interactive FogScreen project

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Marc Breisinger and James K. Ford

Micro-Laptop “Flybook”

The Dialogue company’s Flybook computer:

“Among the Asian makers of Windows laptops…the game for some time has been, ‘How small can you go?’... A Taiwan company called Dialogue has placed a new dot along that curve with an intriguing micro-laptop called the Flybook. It’s a full-blown Windows XP computer, complete with touch screen and stylus, that’s not much bigger than a DVD case (9.3 by 6.1 inches, 2.7 pounds).” (from )

Starter Links: Flybook home page | New York Timesreview of the Flybook

E-Ink, E-Paper Displays

Flexible, paper-like display technology based on “eink” concept:

“An Electronic Paper Display is a display that possess a paper-like high contrast appearance, ultra-low power consumption, and a thin, light form. It gives the viewer the experience of reading from paper, while having the power of updatable information. EPDs are a technology enabled by electronic ink – ink that carries a charge enabling it to be updated through electronics. Electronic ink is ideally suited for EPDs as it is a reflective technology which requires no front or backlight, is viewable under a wide range of lighting conditions, including direct sunlight, and requires no power to maintain an image.” (from the E Ink corporation’s page on EPDs)

Starter Links: | E Ink, Inc. home| Business Week Article

OLED’s (Organic light-emitting diodes) and Flexible LCD Screens

Current initiative to create flexible, rollable display screens based on OLED technology:

“The display is functionally similar to the LCD (liquid crystal display) panels used inside TVs and notebooks, but with a crucial difference. Instead of containing glass substrates, the screen features a substrate of flexible plastic, allowing the display to bend.” (from CNET News.com article on flexible screens)

Starter Links: Wikipedia article on OLED | CNET News.com article on Samsung flexible LCD

MIT Media Lab’s $100 Laptop Transliteracies Research Report

Project to design and produce a $100 laptop to be distributed to users through government programs:

Why do children in developing nations need laptops?
Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to “learn learning” through independent interaction and exploration.” (from MIT Media Lab $100 Laptop site)

Starter Links: $100 Laptop site | CNET News.com articles (1 | 2) | Chronicle of Higher Education article

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kim Knight