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First Touch-Screen, Bendable E-Paper Developed 174

Posted by timothy
from the don't-sign-contracts-written-on-this dept.
Al writes "The first touch-screen flexible e-paper has been developed by a team from Arizona State University and E-Ink (the company that makes the technology for Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader). Jann Kaminski and colleagues at ASU's Flexible Display Center say the main challenge is that most touch-screen technologies do not respond well to being flexed. So they used an inductive screen, which relies on a magnetized styluses to induce a field in a sensing layer at the back of the display. The first adopters for the technology are likely to be the US Army. Watch a video of the device being tested."
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First Touch-Screen, Bendable E-Paper Developed

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  • Sounds cool (Score:1, Troll)

    by oodaloop (1229816)
    But what purpose does it serve exactly, that isn't served by other devices? It sounds like yet another invention whose daughter is necessity.
    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:52PM (#27053537)
      How about the awesomeness of replacing that stupid projector screen and projector with one of these? No more expensive projector, no more being blinded while you're standing in front of it, no more casting a shadow on the screen, and best of all - you can interact directly with the screen. I'd say it's got tons of advantages in that area alone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oodaloop (1229816)
        C'mon, does it really need to be flexible AND touch-sensitive? We have non-projector wall-monitors (some rear-projected, some plasma screens) that we control with a mouse. Works pretty well. Not one person using it has said, "You know, this is just unacceptable. This has to be flexible and touch-sensitive in order for me to do my job."
        • Re:Sounds cool (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dishevel (1105119) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:11PM (#27053819)
          It sure would help to be flexible. Much easier to transport a 100" display that rolls up than a 100" LCD screen.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by JCSoRocks (1142053)
            Exactly. For trade shows we send out a 50" flat panel display. We had to order a custom case for the thing and I'm still always worried it's going to come back destroyed (like most trade show stuff). It'd be so much simpler to send a tube.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by maxume (22995)

          I'm as anti-enthusiasm as anybody, but does it pose some problem for you if it is flexible and touch sensitive?

          I suppose you might want access to one or the other at a lower price, but I doubt the availability of both in a single screen will have much impact on that.

          • by oodaloop (1229816)
            A flexible screen that gets rolled up a lot would probably not hang right. Glare, bumps, etc would probably become problems. And I prefer to brief on non-touch sensitive screens so I can point things out on the screen without accidentally advancing slides.
            • You can still, you know, hover your finger over the screen. You people that mash their fingers on the screen rather than hovering drive me crazy. :P For a while I had a note over my screen that informed anyone near it that touching it would result in dismemberment. I won't want to be looking through their finger grease while I'm working.

              As a side note, yes, I realize this is a touch-screen but I'm thinking that for large-scale presentations and such where people are far away the fingerprints won't be noti
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by multimed (189254)
                Kinda funny - at a former job, I developed interactive software - presentations, calculators, etc for sales reps at a financial services company. One anecdotal way we assessed how compelling our stuff was, was the fingerprint test. The best endorsement we could get would be when the reps would complain that they'd always have to clean their screen off.
        • Re:Sounds cool (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:41PM (#27054281)

          does it really need to be flexible

          Roll it up, stick it under my arm, and carry it to where I need it. Yeah, that sounds pretty handy.

          AND touch-sensitive? We have non-projector wall-monitors (some rear-projected, some plasma screens) that we control with a mouse.

          Control with a mouse. Not draw with a mouse. I've given whiteboard talks, sketching out what I'm talking about. And I'm here to tell you you CANNOT give a whiteboard talk by trying to sketch with a mouse.

          Not one person using it has said, "You know, this is just unacceptable. This has to be flexible and touch-sensitive in order for me to do my job."

          Not one person using standard accounting ledgers said, "You know, this is just unacceptable. This has to be able to do arithmetic on its own for me to do my job." Then they got to see computer spreadsheets.

          • by aliquis (678370)

            And I'm here to tell you you CANNOT give a whiteboard talk by trying to sketch with a mouse.

            But you probably can with a pen tablet.

            But obviously this has many usages, just that some people can't come up with them since it haven't been around and they haven't seen them yet.

            But there are others which will come up with them so don't worry ...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DeadChobi (740395)

            I agree with you. There are these electronic touch-sensitive whiteboards called SmartBoards that can be drawn on with pens. Teachers can even draw basic shapes by tapping the button for the shape and drawing it on the screen. Educationally this is a huge leap forward from drawing on a tablet or controlling a presentation with a mouse, considering that the teacher can remain at the same place in the room as they were before they started using computers for presentations. Being able to stand in front of the w

          • by oodaloop (1229816)
            So you agree that first came the invention, then came the need. Do you realize you're arguing my point?
            • by Hucko (998827)

              C'mon, does it really need to be flexible AND touch-sensitive? We have non-projector wall-monitors (some rear-projected, some plasma screens) that we control with a mouse. Works pretty well. Not one person using it has said, "You know, this is just unacceptable. This has to be flexible and touch-sensitive in order for me to do my job."

              That seems to me to be arguing just the opposite. The first line is a question if we actually have a need for this.

        • by orielbean (936271)

          I want to be able to type my papers on the shirt I am wearing, and then show it to my boss just by walking into his office.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Lord Bitman (95493)

        you really think a wall-sized flexible touch-screen display is going to be less expensive than a projector, ever?

        • by jebrew (1101907)
          Of OLED's ever get it together, then eventually it may be financially advantageous to use a roll up touch screen. Maybe not cheaper, but it's got some nice advantages.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          Yep.

          This technology looks like it will be easier to scale, cheaper to manufacture, and have fewer parts..Once it's ramped into a full manufacturing life scale. There is a lot of manual work that still goes into a high quality projector. Meanwhile these will alp be the same quality, flattening the marketing field.

          DO you think a computer will be less expensive then hiring extra accountants, ever?

          • DO you think a computer will be less expensive then hiring extra accountants, ever?

            But a computer cannot serve as a drop-in replacement for accountants (at least not effectively).

        • Projectors have this nasty habit of shining blindingly intense light in your eyes if you want to face your audience, and casts shadows. This has all the advantages of a SmartBoard and none of SmartBoard's greatest weaknesses.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        How about the awesomeness of replacing that stupid projector screen and projector with one of these?

        If you're worried about casting a shadow on the scree while interacting with the projection, might I suggest that you drive the projector with a data tablet and just sit comfortably off to the side. That will work a lot better than cramming 50+ people around a palm pilot sized display.
    • I also am not sure exactly what this could be useful for, but they explain their reasoning in the first paragraph.

      They say that the breakthrough could lead to more practical and easier-to-use portable devices.

    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:02PM (#27053711)

      A couple that come to mind:

      The foreman in charge of a team constructing a building (say 3-4 stories) wants to check the blueprints to make sure of a detail. He unrolls his E-paper blueprint from his back pocket and navigates to the correct section, then zooms in. A PDA would limit the display area for the blueprint, while it would be kind of difficult to roll up the whole roll of paper blueprints and stick it in his pocket.

      Similarly, an E-paper newspaper could be (potentially) folded to fit in a pocket and is reusable without requiring people to put it in a recycling bin.

      Your local grocery or department store could have catalogs available at the entrance that show you where in the store the item you're looking at is located, and how many are left. You could pick one up when you enter and leave it when you're finished shopping. That I suppose a PDA could do, but if you're shopping with small children, having something that's easy to read (because of its size) and durable could be useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > ...an E-paper newspaper could be (potentially) folded to fit in a pocket...

        But this thing can't be folded: only bent on what looks to be about a 10cm radius.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nacturation (646836) *

          an E-paper newspaper could be (potentially) folded to fit in a pocket...

          But this thing can't be folded: only bent on what looks to be about a 10cm radius.

          Small moves, Ellie... small moves. Give it a few years or a decade and see how progress is then.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          True, but that isn't really that different from normal paper (i.e. posters get rolled and not folded and books and magazines have a pre-created fold in the middle). I think the flexibility is much more important for durability then it is for folding, since dropping a thing that can bent is pretty much a non-issue, while dropping a solid objects pretty much always kills it due to the much higher G-forces involved. And of course you could always add pre-created bends to an e-paper device as well if you need t

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        It would be better if they had a comp sitting by the entrance where you could download a map of the store on to your own device.
      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        So how exactly would an iPhone-like device fail here, and why would the flexible display need to be touch sensitive? And this really just proves my point in any case. The invention came first, and now you're trying to figure out its uses afterward.
      • Your local grocery or department store could have catalogs available at the entrance that show you where in the store the item you're looking at is located, and how many are left. You could pick one up when you enter and leave it when you're finished shopping. That I suppose a PDA could do, but if you're shopping with small children, having something that's easy to read (because of its size) and durable could be useful.

        Not for nothing, but no department store or grocery store would ever do such a thing. T

    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by A. B3ttik (1344591) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:04PM (#27053729)
      I love Slashdot.

      Aricle: "Berkley finds cure for cancer."
      Slashdot: "What the hell can they use that for?"

      Are you telling me that you have such narrow, blinded, imagination-less vision that you can't see the use for something as thin and flexible as paper, but with the functionality of a touch-screen laptop? How about, I dunno, an e-Book that's as easy to transport and hold as a newspaper? Hell, with modern wireless technology, you could have your screen/input device sitting on the table with you at breakfast while the laptop "base" is over by the outlet. Carry the newspaper screen/input device around with you on the train and bus wirelessly connected to a PDA around your belt.

      Think of the possibilities!
      • > Are you telling me that you have such narrow, blinded, imagination-less vision that you
        > can't see the use for something as thin and flexible as paper, but with the
        > functionality of a touch-screen laptop?

        This isn't it.

      • by bill_kress (99356)

        My thoughts exactly, but you put it better than I could conceive. Wish I had mod points.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jason Levine (196982)

        I agree. We already have that $100 Wall Wart (not "Wal-Mart") computer. Imagine having a souped up version of that as the brains behind the "paper screen." It can be off in an out of the way location, using Ethernet Over Power to connect to the Internet. You'd pull out the "paper screen," browse your morning news sites, maybe a Twitter feed or two, some blog postings, Slashdot, etc. When you're done, it can fit into a tiny storage location (bookshelf, counter, etc) with no issues.

        For a business use of

      • by twmcneil (942300)
        Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:11PM (#27053817)

      The applications people dream about are things like:
      -Robustness. For field work a display that is inherently bendable is potentially less likely to break.
      -Displays that are more compact/portable, since they can be folded up or rolled-up. E.g. a PDA with a small screen for quick work but a larger roll-out display for reading a book.
      -Being able to read computer-text in a format roughly like a newspaper (thin, light, bendable, etc.). In principle not more useful that a rigid and flat e-book reader, but it is a format some people may prefer.
      -Large format displays. E.g. instead of having a projector and unrolling a white screen, you just unroll a bendable display screen (with all the usual advantages of monitor technology: e.g. you can't block the beam, brighter display with better contrast, etc.). Or being able to unfold a screen (like a map) and put it on a table for impromptu collaboration (or display data in the field).
      -Deformable displays for shifting surfaces. E.g. imagine a touchscreen that had a keyboard 'hidden' behind it. When required the keys press up (bending the display) so you can use it as a normal keyboard. With a switch the keys depress and lock, giving you a flat touchscreen.
      -The ability to put touchscreens onto non-planar surfaces. Like having a screen that follows the contour of the dash in your car. Or having screens plastered onto columns in malls (for a mall directory, and advertising, probably...).
      -The ability to put touchscreens anywhere: wallpapering a room, the inside surface of a tent, clothes (maybe just for novelty or maybe actually useful: e.g. a computer interface built into army uniforms), the surface of your desk, etc.

      Those are just a few. If you can't think of any applications for a bendable touchscreen, you're not trying very hard!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Rubedo (868298)

        -Robustness. For field work a display that is inherently bendable is potentially less likely to break.

        This is useful not only for field work, but also for day to day work as well. My Iliad screen cracked just by putting it the pouch on the back of the seat in front of me on an airplane. I thought that the E-reader from Plastic Logic (http://www.plasticlogic.com/) was supposed to be flexible, though.

      • by keefus_a (567615) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:51PM (#27056169)
        And don't forget, France could make their flags out of it for the next time someone invades! Kidding, calm down. Goodbye karma, hello 'troll' mods.
    • by Adriax (746043)

      Low power, lightweight, non-rigid writable computing devices, capable of being rolled into a tube around it's hard circuitry?

      K-12 schools- a cheap computing device for students to use that's near identical to paper, could allow a teacher to monitor an entire class's writing from his/her desk, and wouldn't snap like a twig or make a backpack extremely bulky if placed in a student's backpack? oh yeah, no use whatsoever there

      Think of it this way, what's more familiar for people to use for note taking, a spiral

    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mikael (484) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:18PM (#27053935)

      If they can extend it to the size of A4 and A1 sheets of paper, that could replace the need for printing glossy posters for poster presentations sessions at conferences and in office corridors. These are relatively costly to print, and become out of date (E-mail addresses tend to change).

      Taking an A1 sized poster to a conference usually requires taking a rocket launcher sized tube through airports and train stations, along with the laptop containing a powerpoint presentation.

      Imagine if all that was required was to take a USB memory stick and download an image to a generic E-ink display at the conference.

    • I don't know, which part of it? Seems like there are 3 things going on here: (1) e-paper; (2) touchscreen; and (3) bendable.

      Now the value of e-paper is that it uses less electricity than an LCD screen and is easier on the eyes (in many circumstances) for prolonged reading. The fact that it's touch-sensitive gives you another option in how you interact with it.

      Now those two things aren't new. They're already being used in the Kindle, for example, with considerable success. The fact that it's bendable m

    • A cell phone that you can bend any way you want, so you can put it in a wallet, fold it and put it on your pocket, roll it up, etc. Morning newspaper reader, the Kindle3, etc.

      The bendable makes it so that it's more flexible in its use (get it? haha!) and the touch sensitive makes it so that it doesn't have to have other controls on it. I don't think this is the sort of thing where everyone says, "yes, this is what we've been waiting for!" but instead waits for development to catch up to it.
    • by TWX (665546)
      Computer PDA screens with maps and other control devices that roll up into your screen.

      E-book readers that fit in a pen.

      The ability to apply a screen to any surface in any shape without having to pre-fab it into that shape.

      Complete elimination of all of those imposed form factors that make devices take a certain size because the screen is fixed and rigid.

      I got to tour the facility a year or so ago when they gave the MIT Club of Phoenix a tour. It was really cool. They had a pre-production mode
    • Re:Sounds cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:01PM (#27054577) Homepage Journal

      You8r missinf the bigges and most important use:

      Gaming!
      Now I can have my table sized roll out, and just have the map display on it, with monsters as they come into sight!

      SA well as be able to play every parker brothers game with just one board.

      Think man, THINK!

      Won't anybody think of the gamers?

      • by Raenex (947668)

        You8r missinf the bigges and most important use:

        You seem to be missing some letters on your keyboard.

    • Future generations judge technology by comparing the merits of what they're used to versus what came before. What's old though functional becomes hobbled and retrograde -- quaint, at best.

      As this e-ink tech catches on, for whatever reasons we can imagine, our grandchildren will look at our solid technology and ask themselves, "Why *doesn't* this flex? Why *isn't* it touch-sensitive?"

      Sort of the same way the current youth might express surprise at an all-green terminal screen. "What do you mean, it's only

  • Failure on video! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016)

    notice how a row and column goes dead after the flexibility demonstration.

    Still very neat demo of the first stage prototype.

  • by eclectro (227083) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:46PM (#27053411)

    Will it blend?

  • All Right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <gmonkeylouie@gmai l . com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:51PM (#27053493)

    Bendable e-paper! I look forward to the day when the stack of textbooks and file folders I keep can be easily replaced by one or two screens and a million tiny hard drives I can lose.

    Although, it would be nice if a subscription to a newspaper meant that they would give me their proprietary e-paper and update it once a day with the new issue, keeping all previous issues on file and searchable on the same piece of hardware.

    • Re:All Right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by myVarNamesAreTooLon (1474005) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:55PM (#27053595)
      And just think of how easy it would be for Big Brother to update the truth if there weren't all those pesky hard copies laying around!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonr (1130)

        At least they will be able to bend the truth...

        +++++ NO CARRIER ++++++

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Actually many magazines are this way EXCEPT you have to manually get the pdf, download it and then put it on your device.

      I wish I could get all my e-magazines I subscribe to as a RSS feed and by passing my login info automate the download to my reader. It seems that almost every magazine publisher wants to do it their way and make it difficult for the subscriber to get the latest issue automatically.

    • That's so you can pull up an old issue to use in the bottom of your birdcage, right?

    • by mblase (200735)

      Although, it would be nice if a subscription to a newspaper meant that they would give me their proprietary e-paper and update it once a day with the new issue, keeping all previous issues on file and searchable on the same piece of hardware.

      They already do, if you consider an iPhone "e-paper" and their Web site a "subscription."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nizo (81281) *

      I can't wait until I can change the wallpaper that is on my real walls without having to hang new wallpaper. Being able to dynamically display things (from, say the tv/computer) on the walls around the room would be spiffy too.

      • That makes me imagine playing wylie coyote tricks on my girl friend ... Where did the door go? its over here ... THWACK!
      • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:44PM (#27054321)

        Oh God. That's... Ow. Imagine MySpace, but in everyone's living room.

        Seriously, man. Be careful what you wish for.

        Some day, I'm going to say 'Oh man, you remember the Goatse wallpaper virus of 2024? What month that was.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Sounds great, but don't forget others will be able to do that as well.

        That's doesn't scare you? take a walk around and look at some peoples wallpaper on there computer. Keep in mind that they could ahve just about anything there.

        I'm sure you choice would be stylish~

      • by Bob-taro (996889)

        I can't wait until I can change the wallpaper that is on my real walls without having to hang new wallpaper. Being able to dynamically display things (from, say the tv/computer) on the walls around the room would be spiffy too.

        It's not so great. Read "carpet bugs" [livejournal.com]

  • Easy! (Score:4, Funny)

    by spacemky (236551) * <nick@ary[ ]com ['fi.' in gap]> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:56PM (#27053611) Homepage Journal

    I'm not impressed. I can do this with my current LCD Screen. Watch thi*#&$&#*((*#

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:06PM (#27053743)
    There is a growing perception that touch means touch - using your finger. Using an inert stylus (like Windows Mobile devices) is a very poor second. But having to use a special purpose magnetic stylus is a FAIL.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A stylus is quite small, and can be positioned accurately. My finger is quite fat. Waving a finger around is OK for scrolling through lists and selecting large icons, but writing with your finger on something the size of a PDA is really sucky.

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:29PM (#27054095) Homepage

      Not to be dismissive of your point (it's a good point), but I think it just depends on the application. If the purpose is navigation of an OS, then I might be much more interested in using my finger. If, on the other hand, the purpose is to allow me to write on something, then I'm more comfortable using something resembling a pen.

      • by querist (97166)

        Agreed.

        The iPod Touch is great for all sorts of things, but trying to use the handwriting recognition is a real pain. I normally write with a pen or pencil, so a stylus is a "natural" substitute - it feels very much like a pen or pencil, but works on the touch screen. I can do that with my Windows Mobile device, but not with my iPod Touch.

        I know about the stylus at ThinkGeek. I don't have one yet, and the price is a bit too high in my opinion for a stylus.

        • by Zerth (26112)

          Use the negative side of a AAA or AAAA battery with a bit of felt on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dunkelfalke (91624)

      using your finger is fine when you don't mind smeared, bad readable displays.

    • So if they made a little finger-glove that just goes over the tip of your finger that's magnetic, or even if they eventually develop something that's basically a magnetic version of a false fingernail, would you not consider THAT touch screen? For your definition, does it HAVE to require actual skin-to-screen contact?

      For my money, I'd rather NOT directly touch and smear up a screen. You'll have a sharper, more accurate touching point using anything other than the rounded, soft surface of a fingertip as well.

      And finally, if something can sense a finger touching it, odds are it'll be set off by just about anything touching it. If they can make it so that it's ONLY activated by the previously mentioned fingertip cover, I'd consider that WAY better.

      • You're trying to weasel my words.

        The primary sucky point with a stylus is that they are easy to lose. You can generally find an easy back up for a passive stylus by using a retracted ball point pen or the back of a pencil or such. A magnetic stylus is a specialized item.

  • Will this new technology make the iRex Iliad more affordable?
    http://www.irextechnologies.com/products/iliad [irextechnologies.com]
    Currently this cool reader is basically eInk over a Wacom tablet, and costs >$7C
    I still want one, though.

  • As soon as it's cheap enough to publish millions of books on, wallpaper my walls, and stretch over every orifice of my body, let me know.
  • Return of the scroll (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miletus (552448) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:05PM (#27054661)
    In the ancient world, books were scrolls, which avoided the complexity and expense of bookbinding. With flexible e-paper, I suspect the scroll will return to its rightful place as the preferred format for printed matter, since you'll only need one large scroll to display anything every printed.
  • by dfisheratt (1491287) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:14PM (#27054781)
    Only mine had one other cool feature...You could lift the plastic cover to erase. Here's a link to a pic... http://www.schylling.com/Creative-Play/MGSL-2.jpg [schylling.com]
  • ... into making the displays black-on-white, instead of black-on-gray?

    To me that's a much more serious limitation of the current displays than the inability to bend them.

  • ... the display touches itself?

  • The hideously slow refresh rate and the dreaded screen "reset" need to be fixed before epaper screens will be viable for anything but static content. It's nice to have some kind of interactivity and perhaps a touch screen could have limited uses such as simple note taking, or soft buttons. But as the video demonstrates, it would be intolerable for much more until epaper fixes its underlying issue.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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