May 10th 2011

The smartest phones are made of paper

Each day, we are being bombarded with more and more versions technology, grossly updated in a matter of minutes.

Well, here’s the newest:

The world’s first interactive paper computer.

A team at Queen’s University Human Media Lab have developed a smartphone prototype. Called PaperPhone, it is best described as a flexible iPhone. It can play music, make phone calls, store books, hold apps… the only difference is it’s paper thin.

“This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” says creator Roel Vertegaal, the director of Queen’s University Human Media Lab said in a press release. “This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper. You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen.”

The PaperPhone’s display consists of a 9.5 cm diagonal thin film flexible E Ink display. Because of its flexibility, it makes it much more portable that any current mobile computer, and breaking is brought down to a minimum.

But this goes even further. You can store and interact with documents on larger versions of these light, flexible computers. What does this mean? No paper, no printers… the paperless office is here.

“Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper, or throw them around the desk,” says Dr. Vertegaal.

This new generation of computers will being a new level to what we currently know. While we downgrade the weight of what we carry (large laptops to smaller laptops to netbooks, to iPads and Playbooks to iPhones…), these super lightweight, thin, and flexible versions will take over.

Dr. Vertegaal will unveil his paper computer on May 10 at 2 pm at the Association of Computing Machinery’s CHI 2011 (Computer Human Interaction) conference in Vancouver — the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction. An article on a study of interactive use of bending with flexible thinfilm computers is to be published at this conference, where the group is also demonstrating a thinfilm wristband computer called Snaplet.

For details, videos, and the complete study, visit

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.