The future’s not too far off

In 2008 as part of Beyond Distance’s annual conference we ran a session on the lines of BBC’s ‘Dragon’s Den’, where e-learning researchers and practitioners were invited to pitch ideas for funding support to an expert panel.

Conceived as a forum for bringing ideas through a process of scrutiny and providing feedback to the proposers, the ideas pitched were for real but there was no actual pot of funds available to back the ideas.

One of the proposals that was considered ‘fundable’ then was for an e-paper and the technologist who proposed it made a spirited defence of the proposal in the face of stringent questioning by the experts.

The proposed  e-paper was suggested to be a rewritable and flexible display – but not foldable – that was proposed as a significant step-forward from the tethered and portable display units that we were used to.

The logical next step to this was e-readers and tablet PCs, the current pinnacle of which is Apple’s iPad. The reason I mention the ‘futuristic’ proposal from 2008 is within two-and-half year time span ‘electronic paper’ which is bendy, able to retain an image and electronically rewriteable – is getting closer all the time.

In January 2010, LG Electronics showed off a 19in flexible e-paper, and companies such as Plastic Logic and E Ink are getting electronics that look closer to paper all the time.

So the next time an idea is pitched or you spot something interesting in a sci-fi narrative, don’t be surprised to see it in a shop window sometime soon.

Jai Mukherjee, Beyond Distance Research Alliance

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