Thinking Tech

Video: e-ink finds new life in bendable computers

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Paperphone is a handheld computer that's as thin as a sheet of paper -- and just as flexible too.

With rumors swirling that Amazon was preparing to get into the tablet making business, it seemed to be just another indication that electronic ink was surely destined to fade into gray. However, researchers have figured out how to incorporate the technology into an innovative device that just may spare it from going the way of black and white TVs.

Born out of a collaboration between researchers at Arizona State University and Queen's University in Canada, the Paperphone is a handheld computer that's as thin as a sheet of paper -- and just as flexible too. Described by its inventor, Roel Vertegaal of Queen's University, as a "flexible iPhone," the paper computer is scheduled to be unveiled on May 10 at the Association of Computing Machinery's CHI 2011 conference in Vancouver, Canada.

"This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper," Vertegaal says.

He adds that it does everything a smartphone does, including store books, play music and enabling phone calls. But while LCD touch screens respond to swipes and other touch gestures, the 9.5 centimeter diagonal e-ink interface reacts to specific "bend gestures" that can be used to navigate through maps, contact lists, or music play lists.

"You fold or bend the page to move forward in a book," says Winslow Burleson, a professor at ASU. "Now, with this device, you can do that on your phone, too."

In addition, the paper computers only consume power when in use and can be adapted to create other devices, such as a wristband computer the researchers developed called a Snaplet.

"This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years," Vertegaal says.

Image: Queens University

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure