Having problem to read the instructions or heed warnings for a particular product? This problem might be resolved in the near future with the invention of “Talk Paper”. Some Swedish researchers are studying a technology to create a “Talk Paper” that can be used in many ways, for instance, to read out instruction on taking medication to those with seeing problems or to warn children of the risk of smoking, etc.

In their research, the researchers demonstrated how to use printable ink instead of wires or other embedded devices like chips in greeting cards to print the prototype “Talk Paper”. They used an electronically conductive ink that is able to respond to pressure, for instance by fingers or hands. The paper also uses printed speakers created with the conductive ink spread over a material (aluminium foil in this prototype) which covers an empty cavity to form a diaphragm. The areas covered by the conductive ink are linked at the edge of the paper to wires, which relay the signals to a chip embedded with audio files.

The prototype display consists of three different layers of paper. The back of the display is made of cardboard. The middle layer is printed with the conductive ink on regular paper. And the top layer, the “skin,” which uses paper designed for glossy pictures, contains the graphic elements, such as pictures to attract users and also to cover the conductive ink. When you touch the picture, the pressure of your hand or fingers will send a signal to the chip via the wire at the end of the paper. The chip will thence stream through the printed speaker and activates the audio file to create sounds.

The creation of Talk Paper will undoubtedly benefit many people. Having said that, the cost in producing the prototype is very expensive and it is not commercially viable. The Swedish researchers’ next effort is to reduce the production cost and make it more affordable. Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter?

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