Video of the Day: Thin, Paper Computer With Flexible Circuits


Many companies have created popular e-readers, packing hundreds or thousands of books and magazines into small, portable digital devices. Part of the appeal of the Nook and the Kindle is just how book-like they are; the screen, without the backlighting that leaves our eyes strained after a day in the office, looks just like newsprint, but packed with far more information.

Anyone who has used one of these e-readers, though, knows that there's a bit of a learning curve. Every time I pick up a Kindle, I have to reacquaint myself with the buttons and commands. As intuitive as many of our devices have become, thanks to the work of product designers and engineers, nothing can yet compete with a traditional paperback. We're working on that. Researchers at the Queens University Human Media Lab in Ontario, Canada, have developed an e-ink prototype that responds to bend gestures (and doesn't require electricity unless it's being refreshed). A flexible circuit with sensors records various bends in the software that, when repeated, can trigger an action on the device. If incorporated into an e-reader, a flip-of-the-page motion could signal to the device that you're ready to move on.

But this technology can be used for far more than reading novels. "This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper," said creator Roel Vertegaal in a release. "You interact with it by bending it into a cellphone, flipping the corner to turn pages or writing on it with a pen."

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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