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Prof. Shwetak Patel

WASHINGTON, D.C. — University of Washington Professor Shwetak Patel and fellow researchers have created “smart” paper with sensing capabilities that can respond to gesture commands and connect to the digital world.

The method, developed by the Indian American professor and his colleagues, relies on small radio frequency tags that are stuck on, printed or drawn onto the paper to create interactive, lightweight interfaces that can do anything from controlling music using a paper baton to live polling in a classroom.

The technology — PaperID — leverages inexpensive, off-the-shelf RFID tags, which function without batteries but can be detected through a reader device placed in the same room as the tags.

Using the technology, connecting real-world items such as a paper airplane or a classroom survey form to an Internet of Things environment may be possible, researchers said.

Each tag has a unique identification, so a reader's antenna can pick out an individual among many. These tags only cost about ten cents each and can be stuck onto paper.

"The interesting aspect of PaperID is that it leverages commodity RFID technology thereby expanding the use cases for RFID in general and allowing researchers to prototype these kinds of interactive systems without having to build custom hardware," said Patel.

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