A New Tablet, A New Zeptopad

April 5, 2011

A year ago, pundits were declaring that 2010 would be the year of the tablet. They foresaw an army of razzle-dazzle-kaboom touch screen toys sweeping through the stuffy landscape of notebook and desktop computing. We all know how well those prophecies turned out…100% accurate, provided you consider the iPad the only tablet in the game.

Fortunately, 2011 looks to be a bit more varied…and UEI is proud to position itself on the cutting edge of the tablet revolution.

This summer NEC will release the first dual screen tablet for Android, based on an idea from UEI. Our latest Zeptopad release, Zeptopad FOLIO, is one of the tablet’s central apps. Please enjoy the video above for a preview of what it has to offer.

Here is a transcript of Ryo Shimizu’s remarks about FOLIO at SXSW:

“Let’s imagine computers of the future.

This week saw the advent of the iPad 2.The first iPad was a tremendous hit, and we can surely expect the same from its follow—up. Needless to say, the iPad 2 is extremely impressive. It combines astonishing CPU and GPU power. Countless users were dazzled by its fluid touch screen capabilities. Less than a year after it went on sale, the iPad has become a common site in the arms of passerby. This is an astonishing achievement.

So, what’s next?

As the iPad and its imitators get thinner and lighter, faster and more efficient, what will come after them? Today I’d like to consider the issue.

The iPad seems destined to grow thinner and thinner. We can eventually expect an iPad virtually indistinguishable from paper. However, if it becomes too thin it will be difficult to use, so we can expect it to grow thin while maintaining a degree of sturdiness.

What happens when it reaches this ideal point of thinness? The existing iPad is too big for a lady’s handbag.

We can expect developing technology to solve the thickness issue. What about the tablet’s straight, flat shape?

Here’s my idea: FOLIO.

It folds just like books and memo pads, with two screens. Here’s the prototype for this concept. You can use it freely, maintaining your privacy even in a public place.

This at last fulfills the promise of an electric bookshelf. Countless numbers of books have been printed on paper. The Amazon Kindle offers some 1,000,000 titles. But paper book titles extend well into the tens of millions. Not all of these were made to be read one page at a time. For instance, comics and textbooks lose much of their meaning when presented in a single page format.

A two-screened tablet would preserve these works in a new form. I can envision a near future in which the Oxford English Dictionary defines “Paper” as synonymous with “Touch Screen.”

Let’s toss a stone at the giant.

The weakest point of the otherwise splendid iPad is its keyboard. When presented sideways it covers half the screen, and in vertical mode it is extremely difficult to use. The very first iPad commercials featured users lounging on couches, propping iPads up on their legs. Can anyone really relax like that?

A two-screen tablet could be used just like a PC, with its lower half functioning as a keyboard. This eliminates an uncomfortable posture and any fears of back pain.

If I were to name one other defect in the nearly impeccable iPad, it would be its lack of refinement. In pointing this out I feel a bit like the small child calling out the naked Emperor for his “new clothes.” But I suspect that you will all agree with me.

I’m referring to its inability to use a pen.

Is a stylus a bad thing? Is the finger still man’s first and best tool? Jobs has made these assertions. And I don’t disagree. But, how about it, really? Isn’t writing with one’s finger something like playing in a sandbox? If you go to Elementary School, the first thing you learn is the use of a pen. People have used pens for thousands of years, refining our history with them. When you make a purchase at the Apple Store, what’s the one uncomfortable moment? That’s right: signing. The transactions are made on iPhones and require you to sign with your finger.

Can one lead a complete lifestyle without a pen? Of course not.

That’s why school begins with the alphabet, followed by exercises in handwriting. Will people lose this storied and ancient ability all for the sake of one high-tech tablet? The thought is an arrogant one to say the least. This is why we think the next generation’s “paper” will require a pen to go with it. When using a pen at the computer, what sticks out most?

Verification of characters.

I feel that time spent waiting for confirmation of handwritten letters is time wasted. And no matter how much accuracy improves, I doubt it will be sufficient. This is because handwriting possesses its own unique flavor, capturing the emotions and thoughts of the writer.

Leonardo DaVinci excelled at mirror writing, which Richard Feynman invented his own unique symbols based on trigonometric functions.

This is true creativity. Creativity on a keyboard is an oxymoron.

Allow me to interject an idea. Why do we have to identify characters in the first place? For one, simply because they’re beautiful. If that’s all you’re after, use the keyboard that God gave you. The other is a far more important trademark feature: the ability to search. However, if search is your priority, there generally isn’t a need to perfectly recognize every character. I’m referring to recognizing writing not as letters but as an image, and searching for it as such. This means that even DaVinci’s mirror writing or Sumerian cuneiforms would be recognized in a search. And if you absolutely must have a clean hand written copy, that feature is included as well. But most people would use FOLIO just like a paper note, recognizing writing as images to save and search for. This recognition engine is quite efficient, allowing not merely reading and clean copies of characters but other helpful features.

For instance, drawing circles and squares.

Even if scrawled out roughly, the tablet makes them smooth and accurate. Computers are marvelous.

Of course Apple realized this same demo feature in 1993 with Newton. But here’s the difference. If you wish to draw a mind map, you can drag out a fresh note from inside this circle. 
It doesn’t merely recognize this shape as a circle, but gives it a whole new meaning. And not just that.Let’s draw a few parallel and horizontal lines. It recognizes this as a spreadsheet.Input numbers into the cells, and circle a few cells with your pen, and the total appears.It’s just like Excel’s SUM function, but without a keyboard. Clever listeners will realize that these few features solve most daily needs. And we’re patenting this design.

Still, paper notes are splendid creations.Consider this Moleskine. This Italian notepad was used by Chatwin, Picasso, Van Gogh, Hemingway, and even Indiana Jones’ father Henry Jones, Sr. This is truly the tool of great authors. Paper notepads are splendid not just because of their ease of use and portability. You can paste pictures and maps in the pages, add memos, and insert your own creativity. This FOLIO prototype features these same features.21st century creators can open a virtual map and cut and paste a selection of their choice. They can then write notes and pictures on the map to their liking. Web pages are the same. Cut a selection from a web page with the cutter. Then paste it to a note and use it freely.

This FOLIO is just a prototype, but we have plans to introduce them experimentally into the market this spring. Currently, NEC has provided the hardware, while we supplied the software and concept. Although we are still far from perfection, we believe that the ultimate shape of tablets lies in two screens. We are proud to dually present this concept with NEC. Both the hardware and software will be subject to further refinement.We hope to eventually widen our offerings to S, M, and L form factors, as well as full sized computerized blackboards and desks.

Thank you for listening.”

Stay tuned for more updates about Zeptopad FOLIO!

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