Hang up the iPhone — here comes pa­per phone

Bend­ing the flex­i­ble de­vice will al­low users to make calls and play mu­sic

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY Gil­lian Shaw gshaw@ van­cou­ver­sun. com

Move over, iPhone; you soon could be re­placed by the pa­per smart­phone.

That’s the pre­dic­tion from Prof. Roel Verte­gaal, di­rec­tor of Queen’s Univer­sity’s Hu­man Me­dia Lab, who will be pre­sent­ing an in­ter­ac­tive pa­per com­puter that du­pli­cates many of the func­tions of an iPhone — from mak­ing calls to play­ing mu­sic to shar­ing books — at the As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­put­ing Ma­chin­ery’s CHI con­fer­ence next week in Van­cou­ver.

“ We ex­pect all phones to be like this within five to 10 years,” said Verte­gaal.

What he’s call­ing the world’s first pa­per phone has the look and feel of a small sheet of translu­cent pa­per.

Verte­gaal likens its look and form to a flex­i­ble con­fer­ence badge, but the pro­to­type phone can carry out com­puter func­tions, from play­ing mu­sic to mak­ing calls.

“ The e ink screen is sim­i­lar to what you find in the Kin­dle ex­cept this screen is flex­i­ble,” Verte­gaal said of the 9.5-cm di­ag­o­nal, thin-film flex­i­ble dis­play screen that uses the tech­nol­ogy found in eread­ers like Ama­zon’s Kin­dle.

To make a call on the pro­to­type phone, you squeeze the in­ter­ac­tive pa­per, which has a layer that senses how it is be­ing bent, and hold it to your ear.

“ Just curv­ing the screen, it knows you want to make a phone call,” said Verte­gaal.

He said the in­tent of the pro­to­type is to demon­strate what can be done with the tech­nol­ogy. “ This is very early days,” he said. “ This is, as far as I am aware, the first pa­per phone.”

The team that cre­ated the pro­to­type in­cluded re­searchers from Ari­zona State Univer­sity as well as from Queen’s, work­ing with ASU’s Flex­i­ble Dis­play Cen­ter and the E Ink Corp., a lead­ing de­vel­oper of elec­tronic pa­per dis­play tech­nol­ogy.

The team’s pre­sen­ta­tion to the con­fer­ence fo­cuses on how the de­vice’s func­tions can be con­trolled by bend­ing the dis­play in var­i­ous ways.

Verte­gaal said the pro­to­type has lim­ited func­tion­al­ity and it would cost hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to take the idea through com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

The pro­to­type of­fers a peek at a new gen­er­a­tion of su­per-thin and flex­i­ble com­put­ers that are more like pa­per than clunky lap­tops. In­stead of win­dows on a com­puter screen, we’ll have pieces of elec­tronic pa­per we can write on, send off the email and stack up, like sheets of pa­per.

“ This is go­ing to change ev­ery­thing,” said Verte­gaal. “ It is go­ing to change the way we work with com­put­ers.”

The pa­per phone has the look of a sheet of translu­cent pa­per.

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