Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speaking Paper

This morning the venerable Hindu newspaper arrived, complete with an implanted chip on the back page that, in a disembodied voice, extolled the virtues of the Volkswagen Vento . Hapless souls like us who also subscribe to the Times of India, got the effect in stereo. Interesting, it would stop on closing the newspaper. Since we had two samples, I tore off one and here is what it looks like from the outside

And here is what it looks like on the inside, on tearing it off the page

No big surprise there -- a small chip with batteries and a small speaker. Apart from the sheer irritatingly repetitive yammering which is not going to win the Volkswagen Vento any friends, I got to wondering if this was going to be the wave of the future.

For example, one could think of the whole daily newspaper converted to audio and arriving with an implanted chip which would read out the news. This could be a boon to the visually impaired. Of course one can do the same I presume with the on line versions of newspapers but that involves having a computer, an internet connection, and other such paraphernalia. This, on the other hand, could be as easy as picking up the paper from your doorstep and then just listening to it. In its present form, you would have to listen to the whole newspaper which is a pain, since there are no user controlled functions on this object. But those could eventually come.

Small sound producing chips aren't new by any means. In the 80s I recall sending friends and relatives, from the US, greeting cards which played a song when you opened it, much to the excitement and amusement of the recipients. Compared to those, this one is surprisingly bigger in size. Also the cost of such an object, even though small, can hardly be included in the price of the newspapers, which typically are Rs. 3 to Rs. 5. So it would have to be ad revenue supported. But in today's world of the internet, SMS, cell networks, is there a genuine place for such a product? Are there some innovative uses one could put such a device to, other than the single one I mentioned above?

9 comments:

Sachin said...

Hi Rahul, I also got that but mine is not playing. How to start this device?

Rahul Basu said...

Wow, Sachin, that's a new one! I have troubling turning it off! In fact I heard some people trying to kick it to make it stop!! So I suspect yours is a defective one.

Typically when you open the paper it plays and when you fold it, it stops (sometimes it doesn't !) After I peeled it off, I found it even more difficult to stop it -- however putting it on a flat surface usually stops it so it probably has some sensor for this.

Sachin said...

Thanks a lot for your reply. I guess mine is faulty one then :)

I am trying all methods to make it work, but no luck.

Rahul Basu said...

Just buy another copy of the newspaper from a news stall....

Sachin said...

Yeah..looks to be a good option. Will try on the way to office.

Sachin said...

More info here -

http://www.labnol.org/home/volkswagen-audio-ad-in-newspaper/17731/

Meena said...

Surely it's a light sensor. When light falls on it, it talks. Put it face down and it's in the dark and mum. Face up, it talks. So to read in silence, put the paper flat on the table, don't hold it up in your hands.

OK, so I didn't try dark room and torch. Should, for completeness.

We had a cup that had the light sensor in its base. When you lifted the cup off the table and tilted it slightly to drink, it started singing Happy Birthday to You. We took to holding a palm underneath the base while drinking out of it.

Rahul Basu said...

Yes, indeed now that you say so I see a small sensor with some wave like pattern printed on it. So I guess that must be the light sensor

vbalki said...

First thing at breakfast, I suddenly get this crap about the Vento. I soon spotted the light sensor. So after playing with rapidly opening and closing the paper such that it went "Oy Oy Oy Oy..." to Radha's irritation, I stuck a bit of oatmeal on it and shut it up. When this got scraped off as we rose from breakfast, I ripped it off the page and just folded it in two. It shut up permanently and I could trash it. Battery and all. So I tore the tag of my mattress, call the FBI, like Portnoy said!