Team develops web-enabled touch-based local newspaper

Cambridge-based pioneers of printed ink-based electronics are working with a journalism school to deliver an interactive, touch-based local newspaper.

Novalia and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) claim their latest prototype is the ‘world’s first internet-enabled newspaper’.

The Interactive Newsprint project, which is publicly funded through the Digital Economy Programme, works with readers and journalists in the local community to address how best to deliver content through Novalia’s technology platform.

‘It’s not unusual to print and to work with chips, but it’s unusual to connect a programmed chip to a piece of print and have electrons running around a graphic,’ said Dr Kate Stone, founder and managing director of Novalia.

The device uses silver- and carbon-based capacitive electronic inks to deliver simple text, image and voice content that can be updated periodically through a wireless link.

‘Allowing those inks to be laid down on the graphics, we can have a capacitive touch experience on a piece of print and then onto that print we attach a small printed circuit board that has a micro battery and maybe a small speaker. That widget, when it sticks on the print, runs software and knows where you’ve touched and can go through some logic and make the thing work,’ Stone said.

Crucially, the newspaper has been designed so it can be produced using existing infrastructure with standard printing processes such as offset lithography, flexography, screen-printing and inkjet printing.

‘We’re not just inheriting an iPad and being told we need to use it in this way or that way — we’re actually able to shape usability.’ said Paul Egglestone, project lead at UCLAN.  ‘What I’d love to see in a few years’ time is a community that’s able to work with its local printer.’