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Paper-thin computers can be rolled up, stuffed in a pocket [Video]

August 4, 2011 |  8:24 pm

It's one invention that is sure to set science fiction fans all agog: a paper-thin computer that can be rolled up and stuffed in a pocket.

Researchers at the Queens University Human Media Lab in Ontario, Canada, have developed a prototype computer with a flexible, touch-screen display that is completely bendable.

However, in a confusing twist, or perhaps an acknowledgment that smartphones are basically portable mini-computers, the university released a statement announcing the achievement -- and interchangeably used the terms "computer" and "smartphone" to describe it.

"This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper," declared creator Roel Vertegaal, director of the lab. "You interact with it by bending it into a cellphone, flipping the corner to turn pages or writing on it with a pen."

Caprica-augmented-reality-paperLater, Vertegaal said the invention is a "smartphone prototype, called paperphone" that is "best described as a flexible iPhone."

Whatever the technology is called, the researchers said it could be used in tablets, phones and other devices that will "shape with your pocket."

 After racking my (sci-fi super-fan) brain, the only example I could remember of paper computers used in science fiction was on the short-lived TV series "Caprica" (a spin-off of the hit "Battlestar Galactica") on the Syfy channel. I'm assuming the characters in "Caprica" used their ultra-bendable computers to do normal tasks -- like typing -- but most treated them like portals into cool and morally loose virtual worlds.


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--Shan Li

Video: Demonstration of the paper computer. Credit: Queens University Human Media Lab

Photo: Computer sheet from the science fiction show "Caprica." Credit: Syfy