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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.

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!

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.

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

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…

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!

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!

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.