This prototype smartphone is literally paper-thin

paperphoneSorry, Samsung Infuse: Your title as the nation’s thinnest 4G smartphone was just considerably trumped. Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab and Arizona State University’s Motivational Environments Research Group have created a paper smartphone – called, ingeniously, PaperPhone – with all the functionality as the bulkier versions in our pockets. “This is the future, everything is going to look and feel like this within five years,” creator and director of the lab Roel Vertegaal says. “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.”

If you don’t believe PaperPhone can do everything your iPhone can, take a look at the video below. It can act as your e-reader or PMP – and obviously, as your phone. And it’s not just its width (or lack thereof) that makes it impressive, the phone will flex to your pocket, purse, or wherever you choose to put it.

The PaperPhone prototype has a 3.7-inch Bloodhound electrophorectic display and uses an E Ink processor. It’s constructed of thin film bend sensors on the backside of the display. Software applications are triggered by users’ gestures – pretty familiar to how the average smartphone operates, except that these gestures aren’t limited to a hard, flat screen and users can bend and prod it to manipulate PaperPhone’s functions. Byron Lahey, Audrey Girouard, Winslow Burleson, and Vertegaal studied 10 participants’ commonly-used movements to implement gesture input recognition into the flexible device. “Bending the: (1) side of display, up/down (2) top corner, up/down (3) bottom corner, up/down” were the most popular gestures.

figure 4The researchers admit there’s a long way to go when it comes to this technology, but that eventually this type of hardware (yes, it’s still technically hardware) will see “mass adoption.”