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Scientists Develop Paper Phone

Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab, will be showcasing a paper phone prototype at CHI2011 in Vancouver this week.

The device uses a bendable 3.7-inch e-ink touchscreen, which was developed by researchers at Arizona State University. All electronic circuits are printed to the backside of the device. There are also five 2-inch sensors that can detect if a user bends the display at its corners and edges. The display is limited to showing grey-shades at a resolution of up to 150 dpi. According to Vertegaal, the phone is powered by E Ink's Broadsheet Kit, while a notebook that is connected via a cable to the phone is used to store the phone software as well as MP3 playback and reader applications.

"This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper," Vertegaal says. "You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen." It even features gesture recognition capability.

Vertegaal envisions other applications such as tablet-sized screens. "The paperless office is here," Vertegaal stated. "Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper." He added that paper computers do not require power when not in use.

According to Vertegaal, paper computer could be commercially available within five years.