We may love our gadgets, but many of us still require old-fashioned pen and paper for certain tasks. At the very least, it’s useful to have a stack of Post-Its on your desk for important notes or reminders. Up until now, there’s been no viable replacement for those beloved sticky notes.
But now, Microsoft may have come up with an alternative. Their research team has created what they’re calling a “situated display.” Essentially, it’s a small screen — about the size of the stickynotes we’re used to — that you can move around and stick to surfaces like your desk or computer monitor. It has an ePaper display (like the kind you’d see on an e-reader) and uses solar cells to generate energy. The solar component is particularly exciting, as they can use both indoor and outdoor lighting to generate energy — thus eliminating the need for charging.
And what’s underneath that ePaper? A prototype PCB, of course!
Yes, this is just one of the countless modern devices that depends on circuit board prototyping.
The Microsoft research team reports that they mounted the e-Paper film to a prototype circuit board to create the display screen. Prototype printed circuit boards are used in virtually any electronic device, and these prototype PCBs are responsible for defining the pixels shown through the display.
What’s shown on the display is updated via another device (which undoubtedly also contains printed circuit boards), like a smartphone or tablet. The display can change depending on the type of information you want shown: weather, sports scores, stocks, a timer, or the types of personal reminders we’ve always written down on sticky notes.
Though the display resolution is fairly low-quality, it has the potential for further advancement. The creators of this situated display prototype have noted that, despite its simple concept, there’s nothing else like this currently on the market.
With so many new potential applications discovered every week, it’s easy to see why annual U.S. revenue for circuit board and electronic component manufacturing reached around $43.3 billion in 2013. Prototype PCBs are an essential component of inventions like these.
Though these displays are still in their infancy, it will be interesting to see whether consumers embrace the idea (especially if they don’t represent a large expense for customers), or whether they’ll stick with tradition. After all, many people predicted e-readers would replace books by now, and that still hasn’t come to pass.
Even so, as the technology continues to grow, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on these situated displays.