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PaperPulse: An Integrated Approach for Embedding Electronics in Paper Designs

PaperPulse is a design and fabrication approach that enables designers without a technical background to produce standalone interactive paper artifacts by augmenting them with electronics. With PaperPulse, designers overlay pre-designed visual elements with electronic components available in our design tool. PaperPulse provides designers with three families of widgets designed for smooth integration with paper, for an overall of 20 different interactive components. We also contribute a logic demonstration and recording approach, Pulsation, that allows for specifying functional relationships between widgets. Using the final design and the recorded Pulsation logic, PaperPulse generates layered electronic circuit designs, and code that can be deployed on a microcontroller. By following automatically generated assembly instructions, designers can seamlessly integrate the microcontroller and widgets in the final paper artifact.

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Scientific Publication:

Raf Ramakers, Kashyap Todi, Kris Luyten. PaperPulse: An Integrated Approach for Embedding Electronics in Paper Designs. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '15).


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Raf Ramakers, Kashyap Todi, Kris Luyten. Automated Design and Generating of a Paper Electronic System. (pending)


The workflow below shows how PaperPulse streamlines the design and fabrication process of interactive paper artifacts. During the walkthrough, a paper game is created using PaperPulse. The game consists of a loop of six LEDs that consecutively turn on and off. The objective of the game is to ``grab the banana" by pressing a button at the moment when a particular LED lights up. A buzzer rings for a short duration each time the player succeeds in doing so.
(a) The user adds interactive elements (e.g. push buttons, sliders, LEDs, microphones) to the visual design and specifies logic between components by demonstrating and recording input and output actions. (b) PaperPulse generates different layers, consisting of visual elements and electronic circuits printed using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer filled with conductive ink. (c) By following step-by-step instructions, the user attaches electronic components on the paper circuit using stickers and cuts and fold all the paper sheets. (d) Next, PaperPulse generates code that can be directly uploaded to the microcontroller attached to the paper. (e) The design can now be used as a standalone interactive artifact.

Before the assembing, the design can be tested in a simulator:

For every design, PaperPulse generates 3 layers that the user has to print out using a conductive printer and color printer. Step-by-step instructions guide the user through the assembly process. In this process, the user has to stick components on the paper circuit using electronic stickers. Besides this, the different sheets of paper need to be cut, folded and glued together. Finally, the user attaches the microcontroller on the paper and uploads the generated code. Alternatively, an external microcontroller can be used that is attached to the paper using bulldog clips

To provide designers with appropriate widgets, suitable for their paper designs, we present three families of standard widgets to realize basic controls such as push buttons, switches, sliders, and radio buttons.

Other examples created with PaperPulse:

A special birthday invitation card where the receiver needs to know the year of birth before the date of the party is revealed:

An interactive restaurant menu to highlight the options below a specific price:

A diet card to track your food consumption:

An interactive poster that responds to the intensity of the music in the environment:

A simple tapping game where you have to tap the two buttons faster for the LEDs to go up: