The one issue with e-readers and tablet computers that isn’t mentioned much, but matters a lot to me, is their durability. I’m hard on everything I own — and I read quite a bit online and offline. Most things I read aren’t things that I need to keep around forever. I love not having to worry that I’m going to break my latest issue of Wired or that I might drop my copy of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles as I read it while brushing my teeth in the morning.
ABOVE Corning’s imagining of a flexible glass substrate.
Flexible displays for e-readers, tablets and phones may be the answer. Roel Vertegaal, the director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab in Kingston, Ontario, has invented a prototype for a paper phone. “This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper, meaning that when users are reading they don’t feel like they are holding a sheet of glass or metal,” he explains.
Vertegaal describes his smartphone prototype, called PaperPhone, as a flexible iPhone. Through it’s graphic interface you can read books, play music or make phone calls. You interact with the 9.5 cm thin film flexible E Ink display by tapping and bending. For now, the fascinating part of this cell phone is just the display. The battery, antennas and other circuitry for now exist in a device that’s about the size of, well, a cell phone. Vertegaal plans to unveil the phone next week on May 10th at the Association of Computing Machinery’s CHI 2011 (Computer Human Interaction) conference in Vancouver.