Revolutionary new paper computer shows flexible future for smartphones, tablets (w/ video)

May 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The world's first interactive paper computer is set to revolutionize the world of interactive computing.

"This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years," says creator Roel Vertegaal, the director of Queen's University Human Media Lab,. "This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper. You interact with it by bending it into a , flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen."

The smartphone prototype, called PaperPhone is best described as a flexible – it does everything a smartphone does, like store books, play music or make phone calls. But its display consists of a 9.5 cm diagonal thin film flexible E Ink display. The flexible form of the display makes it much more portable that any current mobile computer: it will shape with your pocket.

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Dr. Vertegaal will unveil his paper computer on May 10 at 2 pm at the Association of Computing Machinery's CHI 2011 (Computer Human Interaction) conference in Vancouver — the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction.

Being able to store and interact with documents on larger versions of these light, flexible computers means offices will no longer require paper or printers.

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"The paperless office is here. Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper, or throw them around the desk" says Dr. Vertegaal.

The invention heralds a new generation of computers that are super lightweight, thin-film and flexible. They use no power when nobody is interacting with them. When users are reading, they don't feel like they're holding a sheet of glass or metal.

An article on a study of interactive use of bending with flexible thinfilm computers is to be published at the conference in Vancouver, where the group is also demonstrating a thinfilm wristband computer called Snaplet.

Explore further: First driverless vehicles for public launched in Singapore

More information: paperphone acm chi 2011 scientific article PDF

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User comments : 22

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that_guy
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
This is cool. Now, I want to actually see one for sale, rather than the prototypes we've seen for the last 5 years. Come on people - We've been seeing these forever, but they're always just over the horizon. We've waited long enough, give us the final deal, or don't show us anything at all.
Ryan_Greenlee
not rated yet May 04, 2011
What happens when you bend a piece of material this way and that repeatedly? It eventually snaps in two. This doesn't appear even remotely competitive with traditional smartphone touch screens...
Chocolate_Bacon
4 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
What happens when you bend a piece of material this way and that repeatedly? It eventually snaps in two. This doesn't appear even remotely competitive with traditional smartphone touch screens...


I can bend a piece of paper, without folding it, numerous times without placing undue stress on the material. Try it. Other materials are the same way. I don't think that engineering a durable surface for these kinds of gesture controls is beyond current materials technology.

Yes, eventually anything will wear out. As long as lifetime is comparable to current smartphones, which isn't really very long, then it will succeed.
pubwvj
4.2 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
As long as lifetime is comparable to current smartphones, which isn't really very long, then it will succeed.


Unacceptable. We need devices to last a lot longer. It is wasteful for them to only last a few years. My old dial phones lasted 50 years and are still going strong. They were mechanical which should be more prone to wearing out yet they last longer than new electronic devices. I want real world rugged equipment that is built to last. The reason stuff doesn't lasts is that manufacturers want you to buy new over and over. Bad.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
As long as lifetime is comparable to current smartphones, which isn't really very long, then it will succeed.


Unacceptable. We need devices to last a lot longer. It is wasteful for them to only last a few years. My old dial phones lasted 50 years and are still going strong. They were mechanical which should be more prone to wearing out yet they last longer than new electronic devices. I want real world rugged equipment that is built to last. The reason stuff doesn't lasts is that manufacturers want you to buy new over and over. Bad.

Amen to that! Those cordless base phones at 5.8 ghz last about as long as the first dunk in water or even a humid room. They seem to me the worst products ever to come out of an electronics factory.
lyle_chartrand
not rated yet May 04, 2011
There is some merit to a paper like device. I can't see much damage being done if dropped which is probably the most damaging thing that happens to current devices. The light weight of paper like devices would make them idea for activities where current technology may be cumbersome (jogging, running etc) However, I can't really envision a main stream adoption of such limited hardware in a world where faster, brighter, more powerful options are available. Perhaps this would benefit a niche market but I can't see it doing much more for the average user.
wealthychef
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2011
Me likey. Obviously primitive still but in a few years Apple will make one that I can use. :-)
jmcanoy1860
2.7 / 5 (3) May 04, 2011
How long until this ends up with a web cam and down someone's pants?
Quantum_Conundrum
2 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
I agree that I would prefer to see devices that are designed for the long life time.

I dislike the "designed to break" mentality of much of our existing technologies.

You realize they design products with a minum life expectancy so they can maximize sales?

Intel made around $11 Billion in profits last year alone, even after you count the ~$10 Billion they spent on building all-new facilities. Their profit margin is 25% in a $40 billion company.

They can afford to make products that last much longer, or else lower prices by 15% or so.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (4) May 04, 2011
How long until this ends up with a web cam and down someone's pants?

Do you commonly let people insert slips of paper into your pants?
jmcanoy1860
5 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
I try not to. I seem to be on the other end of that transaction normally.
_nigmatic10
3.7 / 5 (3) May 04, 2011
anyone remember or watch the red planet with val kilmer? flexible, see- through computer displays and wrist worn displays. all flexible.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
I dont really like the idea of distorting what Im looking at to make it work. Thats one of the drawbacks of paper- it bends when you dont want it to. Smartphone input with pinch zoom works fine.

They just need to be as slim as a credit card and about as rigid, to maintain the integrity of the image you are looking at even when tapping on it.

And cheap and disposable and recyclable is fine. Everything stored in the cloud, you just carry the interface, easy to replace if lost, different sizes of the same thing for different uses, wall-sized to credit card-sized or smaller.
Moebius
3.4 / 5 (5) May 04, 2011
Nice but it's only a display. It still requires electronics to work. They are off screen on this demo. Electronics and batteries aren't flexible. Making this into a functioning device like a smart phone that makes the flexible display advantageous is going to be a challenge. I'm not sure I see any advantage in a smart phone or tablet when it will require a significantly sized non-flexible portion for electronics and power.

That isn't to say flexible displays aren't going to find uses. With outboard power and electronics like the demo a transparent flexible display would be nice for a car. Window sized with voice recognition for your passenger window would give you a lot more flexibility than just flipping off the guy in the other lane.
SemiNerd
5 / 5 (2) May 04, 2011
Serious advances in E-Ink technology including color is currently in the prototype stage. Lest also not forget that the power consumption of these devices is orders of magnitude less than ordinary electronics, making the batteries last correspondingly longer.
nevdka
5 / 5 (2) May 05, 2011
What happens when you bend a piece of material this way and that repeatedly? It eventually snaps in two. This doesn't appear even remotely competitive with traditional smartphone touch screens...


Traditional touch screens snap when you try to bend them *once*. If flexibility is what someone wants, then this is better.
glenn_martrek
not rated yet May 05, 2011
Maybe this is an opportunity to insert a little more D4D into the devices.
LivaN
5 / 5 (2) May 05, 2011
As long as lifetime is comparable to current smartphones, which isn't really very long, then it will succeed.


Unacceptable. We need devices to last a lot longer. It is wasteful for them to only last a few years.


I would prefer a much cheaper, more advanced, device that doesn't last as long, and is recyclable. As it stands technology gets outdated fast, and that trend will only continue to grow. As an added bonus, because I am continuously in the market, I increase the advance of technology/innovations.
Quantum_Conundrum
2 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
As it stands technology gets outdated fast, and that trend will only continue to grow. As an added bonus, because I am continuously in the market, I increase the advance of technology/innovations.


Not really. Eventually, the room for improvement in basic functionality of basic classes of devices will run out completely, or at least plateau, in at most a few decades. In around 10 to 12 years, top-down approaches to computer manufacturing will hit a limit, and then within about 8 to 10 more years, even bottom-up will run out of room for improvements.

True 3d/cubical architecture in computers will probably be achieved in about 10 years or so, and after a few years, that too will plateau. Though these computers will be many orders of magnitude greater than our existing computers, they will hit a wall and not be able to get any better no matter what. In the end, cubical architecture may prove to be a bigger leap than spintronics or even quantum computing in and of themselves.
daniel_ikslawok
not rated yet May 06, 2011
No responsible company will replace paper by a digital device; at least not as long as these devices are equally reliable as paper is today.
MP3Car
not rated yet May 06, 2011
No responsible company will replace paper by a digital device; at least not as long as these devices are equally reliable as paper is today.

FAA has recently approved the iPad to replace paper charts... (of course, I'm guessing someone will say, since when is the FAA responsible?)

So what is the "revolutionary" technology here? It appears there is still a lot of electronics that are remotely mounted. What is actually in the flexible portion? Are there actually processors, ram, etc. that would make it a "computer" ???

rwinners
not rated yet May 09, 2011
Well, interesting. But... my computer provides me with a large and easily read screen.. in millions of colors. It stores a terabyte of information. It connects to the internet and allows me to make data an voice contacts. Of course, a full keyboard and mouse interface is included.
Actually, I think the new ?Motorola? keyboard/screen designed to accompany their telephone has a lot more possibilities.
Look out, Apple!