A prototype flexible smartphone made of electronic paper has been created by Canadian researchers.
The PaperPhone can do all the things bulkier smartphones can do such as make and take calls, send messages, play music or display e-books. The gadget triggers different functions and features when bent, folded and flexed at its corners or sides.
“Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” said creator Dr Roel Vertegaal.
The device emerged from a collaboration between researchers at the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University, Canada and Arizona State University’s Motivational Environments Research group.
“This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper,” said Dr Vertegaal 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 millimetres thick prototype is built from the same e-ink technology found in Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader and this is bonded to flex sensors and a touchscreen that interprets drawings and text written on it.
The prototype was created in order to investigate how easy it is for people to use bending and flexing to control such a device. The early version is connected to a laptop to interpret and record the ways test subjects flexed it. Dr Vertegaal predicted that widespread use of larger versions of the PaperPhone might make the paperless office a reality.
The PaperPhone prototype will be on display on 10 May at the Computer Human Interaction conference in Vancouver. At the same show the research team plan to show off a device they called the Snaplet. This device takes on different functions depending on how it is worn and bent. The wristband is a watch when convex, a PDA when flat and a phone when concave.