How Dr. Kate Stone’s Interactive Paper Blends Analog with Digital

September 16, 2016

2:00 pm

When most people consider cutting-edge technology, several popular buzzwords spring to mind: Wearable tech. Virtual reality. Drones. Air pods. But physicist Dr. Kate Stone is not most people. Her technology of choice is paper. And she’s the most fascinating paper technician and innovator ever.

“I make paper interactive,” is how she describes herself in a TED talk she ended with a performance on a freshly printed DJ deck made out of paper and special conductive inks.

Dr. Kate Stone Wants to Shape the Best Future

While many visions of the future follow the template set by Apple — a sleek, off-white, borderline invisible digital world — Dr. Stone disagrees. To her, the best future is one that integrates the digital with the analog.

Plenty of designers have complained about the glassy, sensory-avoidant touchscreens of any smartphone popular today. Memorably, designer Bret Victor once called the concept “a Novocaine drip to the wrist.” But Dr. Stone is actually doing something to counteract the disconnection common to digital interfaces.

In the TED talk, she highlights a multiple choice question page, designed to function as a “regular poster,” that allows users to touch certain answers determining what their ideal cake would be, whether a chocolate flavor, a “dark and dense” texture, or a priority on taste over appearance. The poster then uploads the cake that fits the user’s personal perimeters to Twitter, seamlessly combining analog with digital.

This article is brought to you in partnership with the Life Is Beautiful festival. Make sure to buy your tickets now.

The Best Future Also Has Pizza

Dr. Kate Stone made headlines this August with a pizza box version of her playable printed DJ decks. Offered at select UK locations, the boxes allow anyone who orders a pizza in them to DJ their own set with Bluetooth-connected tunes. The boxes were produced through Stone’s tech company Novalia.

Find Dr. Stone at Life Is Beautiful

Interested in learning more about Dr. Stone’s innovative paper-based projects? Drop by the three-day 2016 Life is Beautiful festival, where she’ll be running a lecture in the “Learning” track on Sunday, September 25.

From the festival’s lineup page on Dr. Kate Stone:

“Imagine a world where a teenager’s bedroom poster comes to life with the launch of a new album, or an LP that enables you to DJ from the actual record sleeve itself, or a notebook that actually plays musical notes? This is the world Dr Kate Stone is creating.”

Headliners have included The Killers, Mumford & Sons, and The Lumineers, and the Learning track has featured street artist Shepard Fairey, magician David Kwong, and art muralist Tristan Eaton, among many others.

Life is Beautiful is held in late September in downtown Las Vegas. Tickets are available now. More information, including the set times to expect each panel or activity, will be available on the website in the near future, but right now, you can browse all the events in the Life Is Beautiful lineup, from music, art, and food to ideas and comedy.

 

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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