By Evan Ackerman
Getting gadgets to play well with others is often a challenge, and technologies like the very real and very spectacular Microsoft Surface are just beginning to explore the, uh, surface of what is potentially possible in terms of simplifying communications and interoperability. With a price tag in the high 4 figs, you’re not going to get MS Surface on your coffee table anytime soon, but researchers in Japan are working on a similar sort of technology that can be printed out by a modified inkjet.
The 1mm thick plastic sheet in the pic above contains printed polymers and metal nanoparticles, which combine to form transistors, switches, antennas, and memory. A conventional chip on the side of the sheet controls everything, and routes communications between any devices placed on the sheet itself. The extremely short range wireless is much more efficient and secure than something like Bluetooth, and can be scaled up to handle “thousands” of devices. Plus, a substrate can be added to the communications sheets to wirelessly charge anything placed on them (kinda like this). The big draw is, of course, the potential to be able to churn out stuff like this cheaply and efficiently so that we can all get a slice, but at the moment, it’s still in the working concept phase and there are no firm plans for mass production.