Bendable e-Paper Smartphone Unveiled By Boffins

MobilityWorkspace

Bothered by carrying a bulky mobile handset? How about using one made out of paper instead?

Canadian boffins have created a prototype of a mobile phone – minus the usual plastics, metals and chemicals – made of flexible electronic paper.

The prototype of the ultimate bendable mobile device was developed by researchers at the Queen’s University’s in Ontario, Canada. Essentially the smartphone is made out of the same electronic paper that is found in devices such as the Amazon Kindle.

Users can use the device either by bending the paper or writing on it.

Interactive Paper

The researchers also included scientists from Arizona State University’s Motivational Environments Research group, and together they published a paper entitled ‘PaperPhone: Understanding the Use of Bend Gestures in Mobile Devices with Flexible Electronic Paper Displays’.

Apparently the prototype can mimic all the usual smartphone features that are found in conventional devices, such as making and receiving calls, using a contact book, sending messages, displaying e-books and playing music.

“Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” creator Dr Roel Vertegaal was quoted as saying on the BBC.

“This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper,” Dr Vertegaal added in a statement. “You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen.”

The device itself it said to be just a few millimetres thick. The electronic paper is mated with flexing sensors and a touchscreen so that that it can interpret text entry or drawings.

Mobile Form Factor

“We anticipate that one of the first major commercial applications of flexible displays will be in handheld mobile devices,” the researchers said in their paper.

“There are several reasons for this. First, the flexible displays that arrive on the market will be limited in size for technical reasons. Second, many of the benefits of flexible displays, such as portability, are ideally suited for mobile form factors. Third, mobile devices benefit most from the power efficiency of electrophoretic displays.”

“Our prototype was designed to allow users to build their own bend gesture vocabulary, allowing us to study their preferences for mapping specific bend gestures to specific actions on the flexible display.”

Bendable technology has been around for a while now, although this is the first time it has been seen in a mobile phone form factor.

Two years ago researchers in the United States developed a new type of semiconductor ink that they felt would result in the ability to make bendable computer screens.

And in September last year, two separate US research groups developed an artificial, electronic skin that has the ability to sense, and respond to, a very light touch.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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