Explored, Designed And Patented: Prof Santos Kumar Das And Team
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.
But sometimes you need to think out of the box, especially bold ideas to solve a difficult problem or to move forward in a completely new way. Breaking out of traditional thinking patterns, forging new connections, and approaching issues from new perspectives emanate innovative ideas.
A recent invention in the field of physics has made a revolution related to the method of generating and displaying suitable content on a portable electronic book reading. With the primary objective to replicate the reading experience of a paper book on an electronic book reading device, Prof. Santos Kumar Das(Assistant Professor, Department of Electronics and communication, NIT Rourkela) along with two other B.Tech graduates (Department of Electronics and Communication, 2013 pass out), Abhilash Sahoo and Subhasis Chand aimed to preserve the conventional reading habits while enhancing the understandability of the reader by incorporating interactive methods of learning. Their invention with IPC classification G0F21/1347 has been granted with a patent. The invention generally relates to the field of portable electronic book reading devices, and specifically to devices having dual displays to exhibit different types of content that are linked to one another.
No doubt, every E-Book reader device attempts to mimic the experience of reading a conventional paper book through the display of electronic information on one or more electronic displays. On this instance, Monday Morning went forward to know about the backbone of the invention.
Monday Morning (MM): Throw light in brief about your patented research. What is the background of the invention?
Prof Santos Kumar Das (SKD): We have been trying to digitize our lives for the past two decades. We have successfully connected all the everyday items to the internet. Coming to the education sector, we have smart classrooms, educational videos, class live streaming, smart tablets for students, and the list goes on. However, there is no single technology, which can replace textbooks. Throughout the world, students, especially K12, are using textbooks irrespective of what other technology they use. There are several e-book readers, but they are not highly interactive. Hence we thought of making a dual-display device that can replace the textbooks.
The team has created a storm in the field of research. Here is an excerpt from how the trio was formed initially!
MM: How did you start developing your interest in such projects and apparatus making and started this project altogether?
SKD: We are from electronics background. So we have always been fascinated by electronics devices and their advancements. And in real life, we have faced this problem where we have to carry heavy school bags every day to our school. We thought of solving this problem, and after a lot of brainstorming, we came to an innovative solution.
MM: Abhilash Sahoo and Subhasis Chand were your companions in making this apparatus, have you worked with them in some other domains or some project before?
SKD: Currently, Abhilash Sahoo and Subhasis Chand work in the software industry. We started this as a hobby/side project after their graduation and were able to take it to the next level. Subhashis was my final year project student. However, I was a faculty advisor for both of them.
MM: Describe your (Abhilash Sahoo and Subhasis Chand) research experience with Prof Santos Kumar Das for the patent. How did you and Prof SK Das develop a common interest in the project? What else have you planned for this project?
Abhilash Sahoo and Subhasis Chand(AS&SC): We worked with Santos Sir during our B.Tech. He has always encouraged us to think out of the box and find solutions to different problems. He always emphasizes on solving real-life issues through technology so that we can contribute towards the wellbeing of our society.
The common interest did not come because of the project; instead, the project started due to our pre-existing common interest in the field of electronics. The technicalities, the procedure to abstract data, the transcribed formulas, and most importantly, the method for displaying a book in this type of device are the core features that led forward this project to be successful as 'patent.'
Right now, we are looking at various possibilities to marketize the product, which includes building an Minimum Viable Product (MVP), collaborating with companies, and other aspects of marketing, and we hope to take the product to the market very soon.
To get into details, Monday Morning also touched the technical aspects of the invention.
MM: The e-book readers employing static displays are unable to display coloured images, illustrations, and videos. Your device solves all such issues. How did you think of starting the invention?
SKD: The approach is the other way. We didn’t think of adding a colour display to the static one. Instead, we thought of adding the e-ink display to the colour screen. In the market, many educational tablets are available. A lot of people are buying them. And some private schools made these tablets compulsory for the students. But after a protest from parents, they made it optional. Now, if we think a student spends most of their day reading books (mostly textbooks), may that be in school, home or tuition. Now, instead of a book, if they will stare at an LCD or LED display the whole day long, it is going to ruin their vision. And it’s medically proven that spending a long time in front of a screen is not suitable for young children.
To solve this problem, we came up with the idea of adding an e-ink / static display on a tablet. And with a dual-display device, one can get the experience of reading a paper book. If necessary, they can view helpful images or videos for a better understanding of the concepts.
MM: The LCD has two displays, one being static and other being dynamic and is using Electrophoretic Display (EPD) and LCD or OLED. What was the reason for creating both simultaneously? Have you thought of altering something shortly?
SKD: The device we patented is a concept where it has two displays, one is static, and the other is dynamic. An electrophoretic display is an example of a static display, whereas an LCD or LED display is an example of a dynamic presentation. So depending on the change in technology, our device can use the latest exhibits, and the physical design may change depending on the usability and feedback from the users.
MM: Was the patent applied in the prohibition period or after completion? When did it finally touch the zenith of success? How long was it from the day you got the basic idea for this project?
SKD: The idea first came to us in mid-2017. And after a lot of discussions, experiments, and failures, we finally created our prototype by the end of 2017, and then we applied for the patent. The patent was approved by the Government of India recently. So till now, three years have passed. And we will feel that it will touch the zenith of success when students can buy such a device from the market at a reasonable price and be able to replace physical textbooks forever.
MM: This is the time of pandemic where everyone is at home studying online, how apt do you feel this device is? Many people would be interested in the device, have you considered starting production?
SKD: This product can revolutionize the education industry. By using this device, the students don’t have to buy every individual book and other study materials. It will also be helpful for online classes. And due to the battery life of weeks, students can enjoy the uninterrupted study. Right now, we are developing an MVP and looking for industrial partners to start production.
Patience and perseverance turn out to be the turning point in several projects, especially those based on research. Let's find out how the professor and the graduates dealt with such situations.
MM: It takes a lot of dedication to continue a project for long. What is your source of motivation which keeps you going ahead with determination?
SKD: It depends from person to person, how to manage the time in technology development. It is a passion to think about new technology for a social cause. That's the motivation with us to go further.
MM: How were you dealing with the setbacks to come up with better innovative ideas?
(AS&SC): We faced many challenges while developing the prototype. However, the most important thing is patience. While implementing something new, it is expected to get setbacks. But we always try to look at the problems with many different angles. And with our team effort, we still manage to find solutions.
About the overwhelming success, the team said;
MM: What are your future plans? Are you working on some other apparatus?
SKD: We are planning to marketize this project. That is our first priority. And we do get ideas many times. But most of them are concepts and not exactly can be implemented for real-life applications.
MM: Share with us the moment when the research project was being granted with the patent.
(AS&SC): Prof Santos helped us from the very beginning, starting from reviewing the patent, contacting the attorney, and filing the patent. And he was the one to give us the news that our patent got accepted. We were overwhelmed with happiness because the hard work of the team finally got some results. It was one of the happiest moments of our lives for sure.
MM: What message do you want to convey to students who aspire to have an excellent academic profile with papers and patents but don't know where to start from?
SKD: The first step will be a literature survey. Everyone has their area of interest. So they must take a good enough time to read the recent papers, check out the latest trends and developments in that area. This will give a heads up to where to start. The next step is theory and the basic understandings of the field. This is extremely important. Without having a good knowledge of the basics, it is impossible to innovate something new. This is a marathon, so patience is required. And if someone keeps exploring the field, it will enhance their expertise, and they will be able to innovate something new, which will lead to the publication of papers and patents.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Sir Albert Einstein. This quote perfectly captures the power of imagination. An open mind is a valuable resource. When you are interested in new possibilities and able to think creatively, you are more energized in your role and keep your team one step ahead of the competition. Channelizing thoughts in the correct direction and coming up with prominent, radical, and innovative ideas bring forth success to a project.
Team MM congratulates Prof Santos Kumar Das, Abhilash Sahoo, and Subhasis Chand for getting the patent and wishes them the best for all their future endeavours.