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Sony’s flexible e-paper – the future is bendy

Sony's e-paper prototype

Developments in flexible displays are fuelling a future where foldable e-papers take the place of magazines and bendable electronic screens wrap themselves around lampposts. But is this a future we all want?

Sony’s e-paper prototype, shown at a recent sneaky peak in Tokyo, is the latest development in flexi-displays. And although 3D was the main focus of the event’s technology, this little product caught our eye.

E-readers are on the rise, but they’re currently limited to the solid structure of a hardback book, rather than the flexible embodiment of the everyday newspaper. This is where e-paper comes in.

Great progress in flexible tech

Sony’s latest effort uses a plastic material that allows it to be bent and rolled, but also means that it’s very difficult to break. So although you might not be able to swat a fly with your iPad, these advances in flexi tech could rival the multipurpose functionality of the humble magazine.

There are a number of manufacturers dabbling in flexi-display, with LG’s newspaper-sized screen looking very promising earlier in the year. Plus, Sony previously boasted its thinnest display yet (just 80 microns) that could also be rolled around a pencil (pictured).

It’s developments in organic light emitting diode (OLED) TV technology that’s fuelling the flexible charge. Since the OLED pixels emit their own light, there’s no need for a backlight, thus allowing them to be layered onto plastic.

Do we want a bendy revolution?

But there’s a couple of things holding back the immediacy of Harry Potter-style newspapers and Blade Runner-esque advertising – such as flexible batteries to power them. This means the technology’s two or three years off, but imagine when the tech goes mainstream – it could revolutionise the way we consume information.

Or are we more than content with the bulkiness of the iPad, rather than a flexible, rollable and foldable paper display? Is there actually a need for interactive displays in school books, when we can simply sit pupils in front of computer screens?

The sci-fi geek in me loves this type of futuristic technology (automatic doors were first seen on Star Trek, don’t you know) so in a way I can’t wait to fold up my book/paper/video player and put it in my wallet. But I can see advertisers having a field day festooning our streets with moving ads.

Comments
Guest
solid snake says:
17 September 2010

I like this concept but it looks like it could easily be broken so i hope they have a good warranty replacement program in place.Also i hope they are exploring their options for flexible & durable material that won’t compromise the display quality.Also where is the sound output going to be placed on the device because im worried it will jar the pictures visibility & possibly cause serious damage over a course of time of use.

Thanks for sharing keep us gamers/technology enthusiast posted with future updates about this technology!

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Guest

No problem solid snake. It’s certainly intriguing technology and we’ll be keeping our eyes on it.

Guest

Flexy newspaper might save them because newspaper is going extinct with the interwebs. but a newspaper that you can rolll up throw in your bag and get updates sounds awesome.

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Guest

It deffinately seems like a stepping stone to expanding screens which is a much more interesting technology to me.

Guest

Just what the masses are crying out for. Add touch screen control, fast dual processor speeds and large storage and I’d pay £3K for it…

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

A flexible screen that can wrap around a pencil? I’m not so sure that the processors and storage is that far ahead yet. We’ll see in a few years…

Guest
Ambrose says:
21 September 2010

I can imagine many uses for this flexible display, particularly for workshops and collaborative work when one has to make a swift projection to illustrate a concept. Just can’t wait to buy one!

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Guest

Newspapers are useful for so many other things after you have read them.
I cannot see these flexible media devices being useful for art etc in school, or garden jobs!

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Guest

But swatting flies is a possibility, surely?

Guest

Imagine laptops with screens that you can roll or fold out — silimarly with phones. thus reducing some of the bulk of these devices by up to a third, many technology devices do not have a direct application when first introduced – but someone will create a market for them soon enough. This is exactly the sort of thing Which should be reporting, as only demand will bring in these cool technologies and devices.