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Canada Cellphones Communications Technology

Canadian Researchers Create Thin-Film Flexible Paperphone 81

fergus07 writes "Researchers from the Human Media Lab at Canada's Queen's University have created a fully-functioning floppy E-Ink smartphone, which they also refer to as a paper computer. Like its thicker, rigid-bodied counterparts, the Paperphone can do things like making and receiving calls, storing e-books, and playing music. Unlike them, however, it conforms to the shape of its user's pocket or purse, and can even be operated through bending actions."
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Canadian Researchers Create Thin-Film Flexible Paperphone

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  • Floppies are dead; don't you read?

  • That's a real stylish watch there.. It'll go with my Elton John glasses

  • is that it doesn't break if you drop it.

    think about it.

    but the problem with current screens is just the stupid gorilla smudge glass on top. resistive plastic screens are more sturdy to drops and bends of the frame.

    and this prototype is lame, lame lame lame.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday May 06, 2011 @02:32AM (#36044852) Homepage Journal

      In the very near term, maybe. To me, what makes this much more interesting is the ability to have a display that's just about any size you want. Fold it up and stick it in your pocket; when you just want to make a phone call, you leave it as-is, but if you want something larger, you just unfold it. I agree that the prototype's not much, but I can easily envision something the size of a large desktop display that you can fold up to phone size, 5-10 years down the road.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah...I can see it now. It'll be just like those paper road-maps....once you unfold it, it's seemingly impossible to get it folded back just right.

        That's a technology full-circle I don't want to see.

        • A technology somewhat like this was used in Caprica. You can then get to thinking about the dynamic newspapers in Minority Report and the uses that such technologies could be put to. Its at least worth a try.
          • A technology somewhat like this was used in Caprica.

            FTFY: A technology somewhat like this was envisioned/portrayed in Caprica.

            The fiction part of science fiction is... fiction. Keep talking like it is real all the time and you'll never make it out of your parent's basement.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        this tech doesn't work like that. you fold it 180 degrees angle it's gone. paper isn't the same after being folded either.

        that would be some active canvas technology.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ]3.net ['rld' in gap]> on Friday May 06, 2011 @06:07AM (#36045580) Homepage Journal

        Right, I really want paper creases down the middle of my screen... Actually this seems more like thin flexible plastic than paper. I think maybe the e-Ink display confused the journalists. It doesn't look like it would fold well though, just flex a great deal.

        For larger displays what we really need are wireless display standards. Like Bluetooth but for video. When I am watching TV and the phone rings in my pocket the caller ID is displayed in the corner of the TV screen. If I place the phone on my multi-touch table that becomes the screen and keyboard. If I want to present something my phone display appears on a digital whiteboard.

        • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

          It doesn't look like it would fold well though, just flex a great deal.

          I'm sure if they can figure out how to put a smart phone inside a thin sheet of plastic, they can figure out how to put some kind of hinge where it folds so that it actually folds and remains useful afterwards.

        • by ayvee ( 1125639 )
          But maybe you could roll it up into a scroll or something.
    • In the short term, I can see that tech would be very useful in industries where brittle gadgets don't last long. It looks really tough and hardy.

      In the long run, they will be more flexible. Add to that surface capacitance [wikipedia.org] or similar tech, then you can have more practical phones than the one shown, but that roll up or fit into spaces that curren't devices can't possibly fit into.

      But hey, why stop at phones? Such devices could be applied to uses that we haven't thought of yet.

      Here's a thought that I had ba

  • I seriously doubt that this is where smart-phone technology is headed. However, this technology is pretty cool, and there will definitely be many applications of this technology. Maybe foldable/flexible e-books? Maybe Apple will find some novel use for this tech.
    • What about the porn/self-abuse market? It can respond to, uh, gestures, your rigid touch screen couldn't dream of.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      I seriously doubt that this is where smart-phone technology is headed.

      Smart-phone? I always wanted that shoe which acts like as a phone, except that I never liked the idea to slide the sole out. With this, maybe I don't have to.

    • Less smartphone, more tablet. They have a serious disadvantage right now: Tablets will not fit in your pocket like a phone can. Make the screen flexible and they could furl or fold up. A long way to go though - the flexiscreen needs to be made bigger, higher resolution, color and touch-sensitive. Or it could just become a fold-up Kindle.
  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday May 06, 2011 @02:50AM (#36044926) Homepage

    There's a few things wrong with this prototype.

    1. No touch screen. Sure, "bend gestures" are an interesting idea, but that doesn't make up for the lack of touch screen. Touch screens are standard equipment on all of today's smartphones for a reason -- it's super easy to use. I'm not sure what would be involved in creating a flexible touch screen, but it could be a useful invention.

    2. No color. Sounds dumb, but a black and white web browser is not going to fly. I imagine this is going to be in the 2nd gen "e-ink" but that may be a while.

    3. The battery pack/logic part. The screen itself is great, but if there's a big "handle" attached to it that contains the battery, CPU, memory, etc. that's actually more cumbersome than just having a thick phone. My iPhone fits in my pocket, but this device would be tricky to squeeze in there. The size problem seems insurmountable due to the battery. Perhaps in a few decades we'll have incredibly small, flexible batteries, but that's a much, MUCH harder problem to solve.

    • Perhaps in a few decades we'll have incredibly small, flexible batteries, but that's a much, MUCH harder problem to solve.

      Well, actually... [powerstream.com]

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      I think you're missing a point here. This isn't a polished end product, but a proof of concept. It doesn't have to have any of the features you describe as such - it only needs to demonstrate that it works.

      • Sure, I realize I'm missing the point, as it were. Educational institutions do research on crazy new technology, they don't develop products.

        But in terms of whether this could ever be used in a product, there's a lot of loose ends that they're glossing over (at least in what was posted here, I haven't read their research.)

    • The bending gestures are really awkward. Touching a screen is a lot more practical than bending it.
    • Yeah I think the article and the actual source material are both pretty fuzzy on whether they've implemented a whole phone in this technology or merely the display. I'd say the display is nice but there's a long way from a display to the whole gadget, and a lot of the mass of your typical smart phone is devoted to things (battery, power management, flash) that are going to be hard to implement in the same flat, flexible tech.

  • Call me when it does 3D video calling, Bluetooth, can drive my car, and I can get it by swiping my credit card in a streetside machine!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 06, 2011 @03:22AM (#36045046)

    As someone who does research in this area of technology, let me be the first to tell you that this is balls to the wall fucking awesome!! However, one issue they do not address is fatigue. As these displays are subjected to bending throughout their use, the nanoelectronics on the surface of the screen substrate are subjected to low strain cyclical stresses which fatigue the electrical components Eventually, fatigue failure occurs and the screen will die. This is a major issue in flexible electronics and is the only reason why there are not flexible displays in your pocket right now.

  • That's not a phone. It's an appliance. Like many so called phones these days, it's too damn huge and not really good on batteries. (Wouldn't a battery defeat its selling point)

    Now get the hell off my lawn
    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      That's not a phone. It's an appliance.

      With this technology I can think of a number of appliances that could come with visual and tactile feedback.

  • by zAPPzAPP ( 1207370 ) on Friday May 06, 2011 @04:06AM (#36045156)

    It is a flexible screen, not a phone.
    The screen is sticking out from a rather huge plastic housing, that includes the actual phone and battery.
    This may be a demo app for using flexing as an input method (which looks completly useless in the video), but calling it a flexible phone that "conforms to the shape of its user's pocket" is really stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just sandwitch this thing between two sheets of plexyglass, add a little bulge for the batteries and you will get an sturdy, slightly flexible, thin, light and completely convenient pad that I can actually *throw* in a bag without fear of breaking an expensive toy.

  • "Within five years" seems a bit fast for "everything". My first thought, however, is that the keys that are also in my pocket would quickly make interesting holes in the device. Interesting in the sense that they'll clearly show where the vital points are :-D

    • that the keys that are also in my pocket would quickly make interesting holes in the device

      ... as they would on any other large-screen phone (well, scratches). I know, happened to my Nokia E61i :-(

      Now I'm lots more careful, and use one of those leader pouch thingies for my keys.... Or am just really careful to put keys into right pocket if phone is in left.

      • Yep, which is why I have screen protectors. A device that thin and supple, though, might be a lot easier to plain perforate.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 06, 2011 @07:55AM (#36045974) Homepage

    "it feels like a thick piece of paper"

    Except for the Cellphone RF section and the Battery, those are still thick and not flexible so that you can have more than 30 minutes talk time and a range larger than 200 meters...

    Advances in battery tech and RF tech have not increased to the point where the claims of this "phone" can be a reality as a real product.

    Once the get a Li-Polymer battery that will not 1, Explode and 2, survive repeat flexing plus that pesky power capacity issue dealt with along with elimination of the need for any heat dissipation for the RF section along with significantly improved receiver sensitivity and transmitter efficiency... It's just a demo of vapor ware.

  • fuck tablets. i want something i can fold up or roll up and stick in a pocket

    essentially, a smaller form of the traditional morning newspaper, except i only need one plasticy page and one copy, forever. something with the consistency of those durable hiking maps

    phone, text, video, camera, audio: yeah, it's all in there too. batteries? pfffft, we don't need no stinkin' batteries: it runs off you. the thing will be low power enough that it will tap something about our biology unobtrusively to derive some powe

  • check out The top status bar.  doesn't say in TFA.
  • What happens to it if you accidentally put a crease in it? Like, you have it rolled up or folded or something, and something heavy lands on it?

  • I've met some of the researchers in this lab, and I've attended talks on their work. They definitely don't mean this prototype to be represented as a practical paperphone device to be sold anytime soon. The prototype is being used simply to investigate bending gestures as a means to UI navigation, complementary to touch and buttons. From what I recall their results have been promising for certain types of behaviour, and it certainly is great to have this level of basic investigation being done long before
  • If you get bored with the apps on your paper phone, you can practice origami or play paper football.
  • I'm waiting for the day that all mobile computers are cellphone size and then the screen rolls out - via the things seen in the movie Red Planet.

    http://www.flashfilmworks.com/MovieGuide/RedPlanet/red06.jpg [flashfilmworks.com]

He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly