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Xerox Reveals Transient Documents 246

Heartless Gamer writes "Xerox has lifted the veil from some of its research and development work in the field of printing. They demoed the very intriguing 'transient documents.' These offer the prospect of reusable paper in the sense that the content is automatically erased after a period of time, ready for fresh printing. Inspired by the fact that many print outs have a life-span of a few hours (think of the emails you may print out just to read, or the content you proof read on the train journey back home), the specially prepared paper will preserve its content for up to 16 hours."
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Xerox Reveals Transient Documents

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  • I've got receipts which fade if left exposed to air, off those stupid thermal printers. And, as a bonus feature, they turn utterly black if you set something very hot on them. Possibly useful for taking pictures of the sun with a magnifying glass, if done with care.

    We have a practice in our shop of taking non-sensitive documents and flipping the paper over and running it from a tray for re-use on the blank backside. Fine if people haven't scribbled on it or added a staple.

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:25PM (#16063014) Homepage Journal

    Meanwhile, the Disney and Circuit City folks are trying to figure out how to leverage forward-frame synergies and shift new paradigms into cross-functional matrix adaptive committee clusters so they can provide new proactive technology-centric solutions to use this in a new "pay to see" limited shelflife consumer product.

    • rest of the world: you destruct the printed message (shred/tear)
      Soviet Russia: the message destructs you
      ????: the message destructs itself
  • 1 major prob... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brad1138 ( 590148 )
    After you run a piece of paper through a printer and then handle it, even a little, it isn't suitable to run through the printer again. Usually it causes jams.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Good point. You should call Xerox right now, because I am sure it never occured to them.
    • Most paper I see used around an office is not suitable to be run through a printer a second time, it is often dog-eared, creased, distorted from someone holding it too long in sweaty hands, stapled, etc...

      It is not uncommon to see loose paper piled next to a printer waiting to be laoded which is already mangled. It is best to store paper in it's pack until ready for use, it keeps the paper clean, dry and undamaged.

  • by themushroom ( 197365 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:27PM (#16063024) Homepage
    The next use of this paper will be for printing those Microsoft Genuine Advantage certificates with your Windows registration code on them. Made expecially for those rare folk who do know where their documentation is.
  • by Kesch ( 943326 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:27PM (#16063025)
    This memo is set to self-destruct in 16 hours.
  • by chowdy ( 992689 )
    This will make for awesome practical jokes. "What do mean I just turned in blank pages professor!?"
  • by iansmith ( 444117 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:29PM (#16063037) Homepage
    Interesting, but how many times can you reuse paper that has been out in the real world?

    Spilled drinks, people drawing on it with pen, folding, crumping, tearing, chewing.

    I know most printers can't handle the paper if it's not in 100% perfect condition.. I can just imagine the kind of paper jams this thing could produce when someone thwoes in 6 pages stuck together with bubble gum, corners torn off and grease from their lunch calzone smeared all over it.

    Neat idea with the UV though. I love the idea of inkless printing, as long as the paper doesn't end up being more expensive than gold.
    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      I know most printers can't handle the paper if it's not in 100% perfect condition.. I can just imagine the kind of paper jams this thing could produce when someone thwoes in 6 pages stuck together with bubble gum, corners torn off and grease from their lunch calzone smeared all over it.

      It would be like anything. People would begin to realize that you can't do that to it. That or it'll never become viable and it'll die.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yoha ( 249396 )
      True - and with regular paper costing only $0.01/page, the existing solution comes pretty close to free. Even adding the $0.05/page of ink, it's tough to see why a company/university would make the investment in this sort of paper. Assuming it's costs $1.00/pg, you would need this to last at least 16 iterations, on average, to make it worth your investment.
      • by cptgrudge ( 177113 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [egdurgtpc]> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:01PM (#16063206) Journal

        Assuming it's costs $1.00/pg, you would need this to last at least 16 iterations, on average, to make it worth your investment.

        Or, you don't use it as a replacement for all of your paper, but as a compliment. Imagine, for a moment, if this paper occupies one of the trays on the office printer, and your print server software knows about it. Maybe you have certain sensitive emails or other documents that are cleared for short-term print, but not to be in print forever. Have your email software, office suite, or whatever be forced to use that tray for those types of documents. Then it becomes more of a CYA thing to avoid potential costs due to the release of information in the future.

        Of course, I can think of at least a dozen ways to bypass that, but it's another possible use for this tech.

    • > Neat idea with the UV though. I love the idea
      > of inkless printing, as long as the paper doesn't
      > end up being more expensive than gold.

      In case of data it gets like quite expensive? How much costs 1GB of data on paper and the whole infrastructure behind it (backup, access time and so on)???

      Just get over it, get rid of papers. Digital/electronic devices cope better with data than paper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cyberianpan ( 975767 )

      I wonder could the paper be made more robust, the primary problem is curling or small pieces of dirt (spills, chewing gum etc would be a lot less common). So they could try plasticising the paper- yes that would produce problems re heat , & possibly make paper less susceptible to ink... whole set up is beginning to sound as far away as e-paper :-)
  • by TheSexican ( 796334 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:33PM (#16063059)
    What kind of documents do hobos need, aside from IOUs, and you might want those to last a while...
  • by Jsutton1027w ( 757650 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:33PM (#16063061) Homepage
    A really good way to play a practical joke on someone...

    - Term papers
    - Contracts
    - I could go on forever :)
  • DRM'd paperback books!
  • I'm worried (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raptor_87 ( 881471 ) <raptor_87@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:35PM (#16063070)
    This seems like it can (and therefore will) be used to add "DRM" to paper.
    • by griffjon ( 14945 )
      Yeah, I see DRM newspapers, magazines, and the like coming soon. Oh, sorry, did you want to clip that article to save? You'll have to purchase an archival copy for $2.95/page
  • Interesting tech, but how easy will it be to recover other messages?
    This could all to easily be a security disaster waiting to happen ...
  • Excellent! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:37PM (#16063088)
    Now I can make sure all of my important financial documents are printed on this paper. When the IRS or SEC come after me they will have nothing but blank pages. MUAHAHAHA! (I'll take the fines for improper document retention, but it is better than going to jail for fraud.)

    Seriously, think how bad some of the OOPSes will be....

    I printed off your email before deleting it, but now I can't find it!

    What happened to those photos I printed?

    If you don't have your receipt, we can't take it back.

    No, that section of the contract never existed. Can you prove it did?

    • If you don't have your receipt, we can't take it back.

      I went to Best Buy and bought a new cable modem before I went over to a clients' house to work on an "internet is broken" problem. Turns out the router just wasn't plugged in.

      Anyway, the cable modem sat in my truck for a few days (a week maybe?), and it got quite hot a few days that week. When I took the cable modem back to Best Buy to return it, the thermal receipt was wholly blank. Best Buy would only return it for in-store credit since I "didn't ha

    • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *
      Based on the description in the article, it looks like it'll require a different technology than a standard laser or inkjet printer. It's more like thermal printing. Rather than placing ink on the paper, it temporarily alters the paper.

      If you put this paper in a regular laser printer, you'll still be putting ink on expensive paper -- it won't disappear. And if you put regular paper in the temporary printer, you'll probably get nothing.

      So in the short-term, mistakes should be difficult.

      Long-term, you can
  • by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:38PM (#16063089)
    An interesting application for this would be for printable coupons. You get a piece of this paper in the mail with some sort of promotion. The instructions tell you feed the paper into your printer and visit a certain URL to print a "special one day only" coupon.

    Sure, expiration ("expiry" for the rest of the world) dates have been around forever. However, knowing that your coupon will literally disappear tomorrow would be an added psychological incentive to use it. (I've *got* to stop giving marketers new ideas...)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ampathee ( 682788 )
      People would probably just print the coupon on normal paper though.
    • The instructions tell you feed the paper into your printer and visit a certain URL to print a "special one day only" coupon.

      This is why I print to a PDFcreator printer, and save the PDF any time I want to use a "Print-your-own-(coupon/tickets/postage)" service.

      Not that I've ever tried to re-use postage, that'd be bad. -- it's just handy for the inevitable situation in which something misprints. Lots of print-your-own-postage software only lets you reprint once; and there's been more than once that I've ha
      • I think the online-postage people already thought of this; printing it to a PDF and then running multiple copies really isn't any more dangerous/creative than just making photocopies of the printed postage; my understanding is that this is prevented by making each stamp/indicia contain a serial number barcode which is scanned as it is processed, and then noted by the system. If an identical indicia is sent through, it should be rejected as bad postage.

        Now whether or not they check all the mail that's postma
    • by g0at ( 135364 )
      An interesting application for this would be for printable coupons. You get a piece of this paper in the mail with some sort of promotion. The instructions tell you feed the paper into your printer and visit a certain URL to print a "special one day only" coupon.

      Why would anyone choose to do so, rather than print the coupon on a regular piece of paper?

      Furthermore, it would be far cheaper and easier for every party to simply print an expiration date. I guess it's a novel gimmick idea, though.

      -b
      • by XorNand ( 517466 ) *
        Well, the paper could be preprinted (using a dye sub process or something) to look like some sort of official document with a blank space in the middle. Sure, there are cheaper ways to do it; but almost by definition, I think, promotional material has to be gimicky.

        Rereading the article it looks like a special printer would also be required, so scratch the idea anyhow. ;-)
        • by zobier ( 585066 )
          Yeah, and you could just print it out on that special paper whenever you felt like it anyway.

          PS: I think you'd like the halfbakery [halfbakery.com] if you don't already know about it.
    • On behalf of all those who have worked in retail and have been subjected to idiots with expired coupons, I praise you and your idea.
  • "Print is dead."

    He said that in 1984, mind you.
  • Every time you run a sheet though a printer, it wrinkles slightly. To say nothing of how much you wrinkle it by reading it. Just like running the old sheets through again to print on the other side, this greatly increases the probability that the paper will jam. This "transient document" sounds like a printer maintenance person's worst nightmare!
    • Every time you run a sheet though a printer, it wrinkles slightly. To say nothing of how much you wrinkle it by reading it. Just like running the old sheets through again to print on the other side, this greatly increases the probability that the paper will jam. This "transient document" sounds like a printer maintenance person's worst nightmare!

      Only if they're on contract. Otherwise, it's billable hours and job security.

  • by Atmchicago ( 555403 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:51PM (#16063154)

    Xerox must be using inspector Chief Quimby's (gadget's boss) technology: "This message will self-destruct in 5... 4... "

  • Bad idea!

    If the point is for security, I don't buy it. There must be ways to reconstruct the content after it disappears.

    If the point is for saving paper, I don't buy it. no paper that's been in my hands for more than 30 seconds is going to fit back into the paper tray!

    So what's the point?
    • The point is to make books and newspapers that can only be read for a limited time.

      This kind of shit has gone on long enough and been tolerated by the ignorant populous... but somehow, I don't think DRM'd books are going to fly.
  • by Stonent1 ( 594886 ) <stonent.stonent@pointclark@net> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:55PM (#16063174) Journal
    Just remove the fuser from your printer, make a printout, and when you're done reading, take a "can of air" and blast the toner off the page.
    • by Compuser ( 14899 )
      You laugh but this could work. Make the paper and toner chargeable. Printing would be
      as simple as coating the paper with clear toner and "burning" in text with a laser.
      The coating would be electrostatic and thus reversible - feed the page into the printer
      and it reverses the charge on paper, collects ink that was blown off the page and is
      ready to print again. The charge on paper will degrade with time (e.g. due to many
      touches) and so the print will not last, making it transient. Making toner reusable
      would al
  • Paper Tiger (Score:4, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:59PM (#16063192) Homepage Journal
    Now when people send me paper documents, I will require digitally signed digital copies as the authentic "masters". Because the "paper trail" could disappear after I accept the paper copy.

    Apparently Xerox is trying to get all the electronic voting business that Diebold is losing because the people are demanding paper trails.
  • by Ancil ( 622971 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:00PM (#16063199)
    think of the emails you may print out just to read

    I'm sorry, this article has been misrouted. You meant to send it to my boss.

    I'll print out a copy and show it to him.
  • 16 hours is more then enough time to get multiple uses out of the paper I'd say!
  • by AnswerIs42 ( 622520 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:05PM (#16063221) Homepage
    I have been sending out hundreds of resumes lately... and not ONE return phone call or job offer!
  • Now when I forget about a paper, I can just print out some pages of Lorem Ipsum! Then when the prof goes to read my paper, he won't be able to find it, and in the meantime I'll have finished it. Then he'll have to ask me to print him another copy, bwhahaa.
  • So.... you've got some paper which the ink disappers after some time....

    Im sure i just saw that in the joke shop for $2! and your charging me HOW much?
  • how well do you keep the paper flat and staple hole free?

    we can expect more paper jams
  • I'm no raving hippy environmentalist but, all the same, there are some wasteful things I don't do, even though they would make my day easier. Probably the best example of this is that printing out much of the content I currently read on a screen would save me time every day, be less tiring and healthier for my eyes BUT I can't bring myself to do this because I feel it would be wasteful. With no environmental or cost concerns, I would print out at least 200 A4 pages daily.

    An even bigger consideration is

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      BUT I can't bring myself to do this because I feel it would be wasteful.

      It actually isn't really wastefull, trees are a regrowning resource, so as long as we plant new ones for those we cut for the paper production there should be no problem, no matter how much paper we use. And in terms of CO2 emmisions it might actually be better to not recycle the paper and just dump it instead, because that way we can catch some CO2 in the form of good old paper, the more paper we use, the less CO2 ends up in the ath

  • several of you mentioned turning term papers with this special toner, but isn't that just a practical joke on yourself when you get an F?
  • inspired by the fact that many print outs have a life-span of a few hours (think of the emails you may print out just to read, or the content you proof read on the train journey back home)

    About the only thing I can think of that I ever print for "transient" use is driving directions, and usually by the time I'm done with them the paper wouldn't be usable even if the ink did disappear. I can't imagine, more generally, printing material for read-once purposes; if I print something, its not transient.

    I expect

  • At the current price of paper, who is going to collect the pages and put them back into the printer? Just pulling a fresh load from the stack and inserting it is so much easier. Especially because used paper is not as easy to stack properly.
  • How much would you save on paper costs, vs how much would you pay to fix all the paper jams from wrinkled paper going back in the printer?
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @08:19PM (#16063532)
    Just throw away the used paper and print on new paper.

    Paper is a crop. It grows on trees that are specially planted by paper companies on paper-company land. They're chosen to grow quickly and produce good paper pulp. Cotton is also used in most papers. Cotton is also a crop that's specially planted for this purpose. Paper is also extremely inexpensive.

    This technology reminds me of waterless urinals. There are places locally that have them. They don't work well. I live within 5 miles of the 5th largest river in the world. Water is not scarce.

    There's no reason to invent expensive, new technologies to be inferior substitutes to the use of cheap abundant resources. Why not fix a real problem instead?
    • Water is not scarce.
      Ever been to a desert?

      There's no reason to invent expensive, new technologies to be inferior substitutes...
      Yes there are. 1) Fun. 2) Because you can, 3) They might come in handy one day.
    • we should all know that anything that sticks to paper-like ink- even after changing chemically hours later is going to leave SOME chemical traces on the paper, making it possible at some point afterward to see at least that the ink was used on the paper if not be able to read parts of it.
    • by Thng ( 457255 )
      Well, I can't say the same about Xerox's paper yet, but waterless urinals do have a purpose.

      Rocky Mountain NP's Alpine Visitor's Center [urinal.net], for example has them. Why (other than being near a bunch of hippies in Boulder, CO)? The visitor's center is somewhere around 12,000 feet and its water and sewage needs to be hauled.

      So, perhaps one day, someone will come up with a GOOD use for this paper. Maybe sensitive but unclassified type docs that you really don't want to sit around for too long, but need to print.

    • Paper is a crop. It grows on trees that are specially planted by paper companies on paper-company land.

      Perhaps you're in a different situation, but if it becomes available reasonably cheaply, I could see this being useful in my workplace as part of the recycling initiative that's going on here. If land wasn't required for producing paper pulp and cotton, it might be used for something more useful.

      Even if you're thinking about it in selfish economic terms, all it takes is for a piece of reusable paper to

  • Ah this brings back memory of the wonder you have as a kid discovering that writing on paper with lemon juice it disappears and dries until you iron it and the lemon trail browns. Of course you couldn't erase it afterwards and reuse the paper, so it's not the same. Then again I didn't have to spend millions on research.

    The possibilities abound. Documents that honour privacy legislation and erase themselves in 7 years. Historians and investigators rejoice! Your work load is about to decrease dramatically. Yo
  • Maybe Diebold can use this technology to generate the paper trail for
    electronic voting.
  • I unpatent the idea of an ink pen that the ink will immediately disappear or show in red if the document is on transient paper.
  • Hey, Dad... (Score:5, Funny)

    by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @09:15PM (#16063737) Homepage

    ".. can I um.. borrow the sheet of paper tonite?"

    "Ok, Son, just have it clean by my meeting at 9:30 am."
  • 1) Its not environmentally friendly. The paper is going to have to be treated with a witches brew of chemicals, and most of it will not end up being "recycled" because paper rarely survives contact with the enemy (users). The energy cost to produce special paper at boutique sizes (regular paper gets produced on billion dollar machines at outputs you wouldn't believe if I told you, so you can average your costs, including energy, over the whole production run) is probably going to be worse than the energy
  • by munpfazy ( 694689 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @10:48PM (#16064028)
    That assumes you either need no corrections, or you annotate using a UV pen. And, that you are able to carry a stack of papers around the subway without creasing and wrinkling them.

    There are only two good reasons to print a document:
    * you want to scribble on it.
    * you want to carry it somewhere that its likely to get lost or damaged or where an electronic reader is inappropriate.

    In either case, this paper is unlikely to be useful.

    Personally, I'd much rather see the Xerox R&D folks working on light weight, high-contrast electronic readers with robust note-taking features.
  • Inks that were made from slowly sublimating crystals go back a very long way. The idea is that the colour is in the form of something like solid iodine in a medium that slows down the rate at which it turns to its gaseous state. The medium can't follow the writing, though, or the writing is still visible. So Xerox has discovered a better sublimation process. Sounds like basic chemistry, not rocket science.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.

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