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The Bulletin

Gumby electronics: Stretchable screens pull closer to reality

Posting in Technology

Bend me, shape me, any way you want me.

Those are the lyrics to an old pop tune, and they also describe the future of electronics, lighting, fashion and architecture as scientists develop pliant displays that do everything from emitting light to serving as screens for TVs, computers and smart gadgets like phones and watches.

The idea has been a long time coming, delayed by among other things, manufacturing challenges.

But it just drew a little closer, as researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) said they have stretched an OLED (organic light emitting diode) material 1,000 times to 30 percent beyond its normal size, and the material still works, The Engineer reported. Gives new meaning to the old ad slogan takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

"Researchers at UCLA have developed a transparent, elastic organic light-emitting device that can be repeatedly stretched, folded and twisted at room temperature whilst remaining lit," The Engineer wrote (the website is British, so it uses words like "whilst") in summarizing a paper published in Nature Photonics.

When manufacturers finally perfect the technology, look out for a brave new world of foldable phones and gadgets, luminescent furniture and fashion, glowing wallpaper, and curvy radiant buildings.

Its true arrival is still a few years away, according to research firm IHS, although Samsung now says that it will introduce a curved screen phone next month.

Curved is one thing, foldable is another. The rollable screen is still somewhere just around the bend.

Thumbnail: Flickr/Masaru Kamikura

Stay in the pliable picture with SmartPlanet:

— By on September 24, 2013, 9:12 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure