Inside the Plastic Electronics Revolution

IEEE Spectrum tours Plastic Logic's new fab in Dresden, Germany, where it will make its Kindle-killing e-reader

3 min read

24 February 2009—Just down the road from Advanced Micro Devices’ gigantic US $2.5 billion ”Fab 36” CPU plant, a more modest facility is prototyping a revolutionary breed of plastic electronics. Comparatively cheap and low-power polymer-based transistors may someday drive computing applications such as animated product packaging and ”smart” signs, appliances, and clothes.

More imminently, though, Plastic Logic, a company based in Cambridge, England, is hard at work on what it hopes will be a breakthrough 7-millimeter-thick electronic book, magazine, newspaper, and document reader. Now slated for commercial release next year, the Plastic Logic Reader will read popular document formats, including PDF, EPUB, and Adobe’s DRM/eBook, and will feature content from such sources as Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, and the Financial Times .

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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