Thin, flexible smartphone bends the rules of input

Thin, flexible smartphone bends the rules of input

Summary: A "flexible iPhone" prototype does everything a smartphone does, such as store books, play music or make phone calls.

TOPICS: Hardware, CXO

It seems like not a day goes by without someone announcing a new electronic display made of flexible materials. The latest invention is a smartphone prototype called PaperPhone developed by a team of researchers from Arizona State University, Queen’s University, and E Ink Corporation.

Gallery: Smart PaperPhone bends the limits

Described as a "flexible iPhone" the device does everything a smartphone does, such as store books, play music or make phone calls. The similarities end there.  The 9.5 cm diagonal bendable device is made of two layers: the e-ink display and a flexible printed circuit with five bend sensors. Bend gestures are fed into a gesture-recognition engine trained to associate certain movements with certain instructions.

"So you can bend the top in order to page forward or make a bookmark, you can navigate left and right on your home screen in order to open an icon, and you can make a call by squeezing the paper so that it curves, and then if you want to stop the call you pop it back into shape," creator Roel Vertegaal, the director of Queen’s University Human Media Lab told the The Vancouver Sun.

“This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” he said.  “This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper. You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen.”

Interaction via bend gestures could particularly be useful to users with poor eyesight or other age-related ailments that prevent coordinated touch control. Beyond that, the applications could be limited.

Regardless, as e-paper concepts like PaperPhone mature and improve in durability and performance (e.g., add color and higher refresh rate), they could pave the way for a new generation of computers that are super lightweight, flexible, and deliver an experience entirely unlike holding a sheet of glass or metal.

The paper computer will be unveiled on May 10 at the Association of Computing Machinery’s CHI 2011 (Computer Human Interaction) conference in Vancouver, BC.

For more information, download the paper: PaperPhone: Understanding the Use of Bend Gestures in Mobile Devices with Flexible Electronic Paper Displays


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Topics: Hardware, CXO

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  • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

    Flexible iPhone? but it's running android
    • Comments system is really broken and glitchy

      @tatiGmail: I wrote the reply directly to your comment, but then, after edit, the system cleared the content of my comment, and after I pasted it again, it saved the comment as already standalone one, rather than answer to your comment.
    • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input


      Hmm, funny... I don't see anywhere that it states it runs Google Hemroid. At least you can look forward to flexible advertisements and flexible spyware then! YAY!
    • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

      It's sooooooooo cute! I'm giggling like crazy. <a href="">rolex replica watches</a>
  • True Anroid device; Apple would not ever release it with such quality of ..

    @tatiGmail: ... picture.

    Actually, none of "bending" display technologies will be able to offer comparable to "firm" technology quality of image.

    And it is not even simply because of lower resolution, bleak colours, low contrast ratio (these things may improve over the years), but also because of the fact that only firm glass can be enough scratch-resistant for image to be actually clear over time.

    None of organic flexible materials are able to provide that. And this problem, of course, is not expected to ease in five or even ten years, or more, from now.

    That is because there is no way to make organic material as firm as glass, there are laws of physics limit that (organic molecules are too big to ever able to hold enough *hardness*). This is the reason why Apple, contrary to many other mobile phone producers, never used plastic on the screen of their devices. They had to use much more heavier, much more fragile glass (whoever much enforced the glass is, it is always fragile unless it is unreasonably thick).

    Scratches will make flexible screens unusable, so use of "bending" will be limited in the future with super-cheap devices, or, more practically, "infopackaging" (like bags with moving pictures and settings, envelopes, clothes, etc).
    • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

      @denisrs "That is because there is no way to make organic material as...."

      Yep, and people will never fly, or never fly faster than sound, and the earth is flat, and humours cause disease...
      • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

        @zdnet@... Man you beat me to it. I like how he tried to say "laws of physics limit..." to try and sound smart. An idiot trying to be smart. LOL
      • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

        @zdnet@..., @alphaxi3:

        Glass cover of good smartphones' screen has hardness close to sapphire. After almost 150 years of organic chemistry, there was never anything close to that hardness level. It is impossible since polymers are huge low-density, low structural sturdiness molecular chains/materials -- what makes them bendable, but impossible to be hard enough to be scratch-resistant.

        If you are ignorant, then do not try to be smart with smart-ass comments.
    • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input


      I don't see the smart ass comment you're talking about but more so the fact that you half assed your comment in the first place. Another thing to take into consideration and I know everyone here is going to boast about whatever their favorite is and how it is better... You seem to have failed to realize that Apple doesn't use glass because it's some neat tech... They moved to aluminum and glass because of the US Gov getting on their case for the toxic materials they'd been using and how it was the highest in the field. They changed all of this by making items out of less toxic and non-toxic materials. Everyone thought ooo ooo ooo ooo with the aluminum deal and that Apple is the pioneers of that move... Last time I checked Coke cans are made out of the same and longer than Apple has been making laptops... Nothing new here just a smart move and anyone with more than two brain cells can figure out that it looks great and light weight... Now if only Apple could improve their cooling design with their laptops then they would be in better shape.
  • Interesting but silly...

    Just look at how cumbersome it is to navigate a list of contacts compared to just swiping your finger across the surface to scroll. The flexibility is good for durability and compactness, but trying to make bending gestures into an interface is pure silliness. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Instead, combine this with capacitive touch and you might have a winner.
  • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

    I believe that flexible displays will be a huge winner. They will permeate society and will be cheap as fuck. As for them not being very scratch resistant, who cares? If they are cheap, then they will be easy to replace. I'm sure they will eventually be very scratch resistant if they aren't already. Besides, if they are truly flexible, the surface should "give" rather than scratch. In fact, if they end up making them even more "flexible" they should resist scratching anyway.
  • Cool but...

    It's a really cool idea, but what the hell kind of input system is that?
    • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input


      A stupid one.

      I'd rather jam through menus with touch than bend a corner and jump on one foot to exit an application.
  • RE: Thin, flexible smartphone 'bends the rules' of input

    Since when were Vancouver B.C., and Queens University in Ontario, located anywhere other than Canada?
  • The demo reminds me of the something The Onion would come up with