An advanced "thin-film" flexible paper computer has been developed through collaborative efforts of researchers at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, and Arizona State University. Called PaperPhone, it's described as a "flexible iPhone" by its inventor, Roel Vertegaal, the director of the Human Media Lab at Queen's University.
"This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper," Vertegaal says. "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 paper computer is to be unveiled May 10 in Vancouver, Canada, at the Association of Computing Machinery's CHI 2011 (Computer- Human Interaction) conference - the premier international meeting in the field of human-computer Interaction.
Leaders of the Queen's University and ASU research groups also plan to demonstrate at the conference a thin-film wristband computer called Snaplet. Hardware for a prototype of the thin-film computer/phone device has been provided by Nicholas Colaneri, director of ASU's Flexible Display Center, and Jann Kaminski, a display engineering manager at the center.
An interactive gesture-recognition system for the PaperPhone has been developed by Byron Lahey, a doctoral student in ASU's School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and Winslow Burleson, an assistant professor in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
"Using real-time sensing and modeling of dynamic inputs we were able to develop and evaluate an entirely new array of interactions on a first-of-its-kind mobile platform," says Burleson, who specializes in human-computer interaction and leads the Motivational Environments Research Group.
"This allows natural bend gestures and interaction on the Paperphone display to navigate through maps, contact lists, or music play lists, in ways that resemble how such content appears on paper documents," he explains. "You fold or bend the page to move forward in a book. Now, with this device, you can do that on your phone, too."
Vertegaal says the invention will spark a major advance in interactive computing, opening the path to a new generation of computers that are more lightweight and flexible. Using a 9.5 centimeter diagonal thin-film flexible electronic ink display, it does everything a smartphone does, including store books, play music or enable phone calls, Vertegaal says. The flexibility of the display makes it more portable than any current mobile computer, and it could be made to fit the shape of a pocket, he says. The ability to store and interact with documents on larger versions of the light, flexible computers could mean offices will no longer have to rely on paper or printers.
For a prototype the battery being on the side will be acceptable. I am looking for the Industrial Design of a product. How shall it present?
Rich has bought up a very good point - how many flexes before breaking? I guess there are whole bunch of questions engineers/ designers would ask before considering using it for the next design. Among all, the cost and the power consumption are important to the adaptation of the technology.
For a prototype, the battery can be on the side. I am seeing the next step. What would the ID look like with a flex screen?
You bought up an excellent point - how many flexes before breaking?
I guess there are whole bunch of consideration before making it to be a product. The most important question would be the cost. Nonetheless, I can see the potential of the screen.
Perhaps the large working space for circuitry will allow for some redundancy in design. If flexing of the paper phone (or a puncture) causes damage to a portion of the circuitry, then backup circuitry could be invoked in its place. The plastic case might also be designed to be rigid enough (bend with a wide enough arc) that unacceptably sharp creases in the circuit are not permitted.