A new thin-film paper computer has been hailed as paving the way for a new generation of smartphones.
The PaperPhone operates "like a small sheet of interactive paper", according to its inventor Roel Vertegaal of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.
"You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen," said Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen's University.
The PaperPhone, developed by a team of researchers at Queen's and Arizona State University, is to be unveiled next week in Vancouver at the Association of Computing Machinery's CHI 2011 (Computer- Human Interaction) conference, a leading international meeting in the field of human-computer interaction .
A thin-film wristband computer called Snaplet will also be demonstrated at the conference by research group leaders from Queen's and ASU.
Hardware for a prototype of the thin-film computer/phone device was provided by ASU, while an interactive gesture-recognition system was developed by doctoral student Byron Lahey and assistant professor Winslow Burleson at ASU.
"Using real-time sensing and modeling of dynamic inputs we were able to develop and evaluate an entirely new array of interactions on a first-of-its-kind mobile platform," said Burleson, a specialist in human-computer interaction.
"This allows natural bend gestures and interaction on the Paperphone display to navigate through maps, contact lists, or music play lists, in ways that resemble how such content appears on paper documents."
He added: "You fold or bend the page to move forward in a book. Now with this device, you can do that on your phone too."
The invention will spark a major advance in interactive computing, says Vertegaal, opening the path to a new generation of computers that are more lightweight and flexible.
"This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years."
Using a 9.5 centimetre diagonal thin-film flexible electronic ink display, it does everything a smartphone does including store books, play music or enable phone calls and even requires no power when not in use.
The flexible display makes it more portable than any current mobile computer and it could be made to fit the shape of a pocket, Vertegaal claims.
Storing and interacting with documents on larger versions of the light, flexible computers could mean offices will no longer have to rely on paper or printers.
"The paperless office is here," Vertegaal said. "Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper."
Find out more about the PaperPhone
See a video demo