Paper Thin Will Always Win

by Caroline Lenarcic, St Peter Catholic High School

A new invention is about to take the technology world by storm.  A group of five post-doctorate students and professors have recently completed a prototype of the Paper Phone, a paper thin phone made of plastic.  Dr. Audrey Girouard, a member of the team, discussed the phone and the new features they brought into cell phone technology.

Girouard, an adjunct professor at the School of Computing at Queen’s University, has been working on this project for about 7 years.  Unlike other phones on the market that use touch input or buttons, this phone uses bend sensors.  The sensors, each approximately 1 centimetre wide and 5 centimetres long, associate different areas that you bend with different actions.  This software was created uniquely for this project by Girouard and her team.  But flexible screens were very scarce.  “We’re the first lab and the first university in the world to have this display,” says Girouard.  The team spent about $7,000-10,000 on the research and material.

The Paper Phone has many features you would expect on a normal phone.  It includes a music player and a book reader.  But this phone is different in many ways as well.  It uses a special ink called E-ink (electronic ink).  E-ink will lower and raise itself to the surface of the screen to produce different images.  Unlike LED lights found in most electronic devices, E-ink has no negative effect to the eyes.  It reflects light as oppose to creating its own.  One of the only cons to using E-ink is that it refreshes very slowly, making it hard to incorporate interactive applications.

Unfortunately, there are many issues yet to be resolved.  For example, the Paper Phone uses circuit boards that are not flexible.  Also, even though the phone is flexible, it is still breakable.  And if the circuit board is exposed to water the phone could rust.  According to Girouard, the phone also needs a new design.  “It needs to have some industrial design put into it,” Girouard says.  “We’re not very good at it.”

The Paper Phone has big plans for the future.  Girouard and hers fellows would like to incorporate a small camera, applications, internet, typing ability, and a touch screen.  They would also like to incorporate coloured E-ink.  They plan to eventually sell the phone for a larger company to mass produce it.

The Paper Phone is an incredible advancement in cell phone technology.  If we’re lucky, we’ll see these phones in stores in 5-10 years.

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