Scientist Predicts Flexible Computers As Shape Of Things to Come

We've been talking about next-gen display technology like e-paper for ages, but professor Roel Vertegaal thinks we're not thinking about future computing flexibly enough. He's convinced that "non-planar" computing devices with screens in almost any shape will one day be ubiquitous, and is busy building prototypes in his lab.

Professor Vertegaal forsees drink cans with RSS feeds or movie trailers, and touch-sensitive computers that change shape when you need them for different purposes. It's a combination of three-dimensional multi-touch, flexible display technology and smart materials like e-ink. Vertegaal even compares our use of current "flat" computer technology to life in the novel Flatland, and argues that the future is going to be about 3D computing and displays.

To this end, his Human Media Laboratory at Queens University is working on projects and prototypes of these things for real. There's a Coke can with RSS feed; a completely foldable paper computer, which lets you navigate an ebook much more "naturally" by turning the pages; and a workbench that simulates a display on any object, using front-projection for now, but with the aim of having stand-alone devices when the technology catches up.

This last sort of multi-shaped, smart material computer "would be a final frontier in the design of computer interfaces that turn the natural world into software, and software into the natural world" he says, in an upcoming publication in the Communications of Association of Computing Machinery. And yes, it all seems very neat, but do we really want animated movie clips on our morning box of Cheerios? What do you think, guys? [Physorg via ]