back to article Bendy screens are the future, screams maker of bendy screens

It sounds so promising: a "revolutionary paper tablet computer" that will completely change "the way people work with tablets and computers". Alas, the PaperTab, a concept device lauded today by "printed electronics" firm Plastic Logic, isn’t quite the gadget the company is pitching it as. PaperTab was created at Queen’s …


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  1. big_Jim

    I predict

    As a result of this, I predict the paperless office in about 10 years.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I predict

      I predict that we'll have the paperless office, at the same time as we get the paperless toilet.

      Do you know how to use the three seashells?

      1. Phil W

        Re: I predict

        Yes I do...

        Possibly Mildly NSFW

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Paperless Toilet

        The paperless toilet is here. It is just that the less hygienic nations in the world have not caught up yet.

        1. Keep Refrigerated

          Re: The Paperless Toilet

          Actually the paperless toilet has been in use for centuries and is still in use in parts of the Middle-East and Asia!

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: The Paperless Toilet

            The Japanese have toilets that will squirt warm water up your bottom, then blow warm air at you until dry and fluffy. You can buy them in Blighty for about £6,000.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I predict

        My 11-year old doesn't use paper at the toilet. No matter how many times I shout at him! Is this the future I have to look forward to? :(

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until someone invents bendy chips/boards/batteries, what is the point?

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      The technology already exists for bendy batteries (e.g., and it certainly exists for bendy PCBs.

      Not sure about bendy chips though, but perhaps they could be made small enough to fit inside one end of the thing, and you could then roll it up?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        ot sure about bendy chips though, but perhaps they could be made small enough to fit inside one end of the thing, and you could then roll it up?

        Perhaps the name "Plastic Logic" is a subtle clue as to a possible approach.

        Pity the clock speeds are rubbish and the linewidth is s**t.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Not sure about bendy chips though, but perhaps they could be made small enough to fit inside one end of the thing, and you could then roll it up?"

        Yes back to the scroll, cool NOT

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Until someone invents bendy chips/boards/batteries, what is the point?

      It would allow devices to have a a screen twice the size of their footprint. Mobile phones have been getting bigger, in an attempt to find a compromise between being pocket-friendly yet big enough to use- but these solutions are compromises.

      There have been devices such as Nintedo's newsish Gameboys, the Sony Xperia P Tablet and the aborted MS Courier that have a clamshell form-factor but with a bezel between the two screens... having a flexible display would allow a clamshell factor with no bezel.

      As a rough guide, it would allow you a 6" 4:3 screen in a device the size of a 4" 16:9 smartphone (very roughly).

      Besides, people are working on flexible batteries and circuit boards too!

    3. Irongut

      I could have shown you how to make bendy PCBs 25 years ago. It's a lot easier than you might think.

    4. b166er

      Because you can easily have a 10 inch diagonal screen that folds in half onto a 5 inch diagonal rigid body that then fits in MY pocket, genius!

  3. John Riddoch


    Bendy is trendy...

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Remember...

      ...but Curvy is Pervy!

      Ah, the late lamented Chelmsford 123 ("One for the Road" episode, IIRC)

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Remember...

        Upvote for the 123 ref. I wish they'd release it on DVD. Loved the first episode entirely in Latin... (although I just did a Google and it's on 4oD, so that's my weekend of viewing pleasure sorted)

        1. philbo

          Re: Remember...

          :-) So it's not just me that remembers Chelmsford 123..

          ..but it has (recently) been released on DVD:

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Remember...

            Why-oh-why was there no fanfare upon release of this? I distinctly recall emailing HatTrick many moons/years ago asking them to release it and getting a "no plans at the moment" response.

            1. John Riddoch
              Thumb Up

              Re: Remember...

              Glad some of you got the reference :)

              I did spend some enjoyable time re-acquainting myself with Badvoc, Aulus et al on 4oD a while back.

              "They call me Mungo the evasive"

              "Why's that then?"

              "Who wants to know?"

  4. Big_Ted

    Completely useless......

    Hold it on one side to use ike you would a tablet and each time you touch etc it moves.

    Multi touch will be a real pain, what flexible screens need for use other than looking at are rigidity.

    1. johnnytruant

      Re: Completely useless......

      You're right, the technology we have now is all we will ever need and the way we use it is the only possible way anything can get done. People should stop wasting their time inventing new stuff. What a bunch of losers, eh?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Completely useless......

        And anyway my personal needs are for foolscap screens for looking at old documents, and these are clearly A4,

  5. mark 63 Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    this is a small tidy screen in need of a computer

    The rapserry Pi is a small tidy computer in need of a screen...


    1. Adam 1

      Re: Pi?

      So come on then, don't leave us hanging. What are you thinking?

      1. mark 63 Silver badge

        Re: Pi?

        er, wait, hang on , idea forming..........

        ooh ooh, i know!

        Projector screens that dont need a projector!

  6. Ian K


    I guess you could set up an induction loop arrangement where wireless power was broadcast to a set of these PaperTab thingies from under the desk, and use something along the lines of Bluetooth to handle their content updates. Then you'd only need a fairly tiny set of chippery on the PaperTab themselves, which might give you something like the system manufacturers are selling it as.

    Of course, unless you had a mobile charger pad you could put a PaperTab on to walk around the room with (turning it into a Kindle, more or less) you'd only be able to work with the tabs at the desk.

  7. jai

    Not convinced.

    I currently have... 21 windows open on this PC, one of those is Firefox with a dozen tabs as well. And it's a fairly light day today at work and I've been quite focused in the things I'm working on. Some days there's far more than that and the pc struggles to handle it.

    I can't see how having 50 paper screens scattered over my desk is going to be an improvement. I'll have to tidy them up and stack them on top of each other - which'll copy the data between them and screw everything right up!

    I think there's probably a cool use case for bendy screens like this, but i don't think they've identified it yet.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Hey Jai,

      No reason these things can't use tabs. Some tasks require concentration on a single screen, some tasks benefit from being able to compare two documents side by side.

      Kudos to this company for considering different uses for flexible displays, and not just retrofitting them to existing devices. They could well be wide of the mark, but at least they have put the idea out there.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I currently have... 21 windows open on this PC, one of those is Firefox with a dozen tabs ... and the pc struggles to handle it.

      I'm guessing you are running some MS windows version. I have quite a bit more than that running (18 terminals, several editors, spreadsheets, word processors, database application [with multiple tabs], email/addressbook client, three VMs, Firefox and the current applications I'm working on). The PC barely notices it (current load is 0.08). If your OS can not handle multiple windows then I guess its time you upgraded your OS to something that can.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >I guess its time you upgraded your OS to something that can.

        AC, "test, don't guess".

        I'm not knocking Linux, but suggesting that it is a universal panacea for all IT woes is just unrealistic, and could disappoint people who follow your 'advice', potentially putting them off Linux.

        If the websites he visits use Flash, he might run into problems with hardware acceleration, too.

        You don't know what other applications he was running, nor did you suggest he try another browser (an easier line of enquiry than installing another OS, don't ya think?) - on older XP machines with 512 MB RAM, I find Opera more usable than Chrome, for example.

        I would suggest he get more RAM, but even that can have some pitfalls, depending on his hardware setup (Intel's advice for some issues is to remove the second stick, for example) so I won't.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "I'm guessing you are running some MS windows version... If your OS can not handle multiple windows then I guess its time you upgraded your OS to something that can."

        Arrogant jerks like you are part of the reason I avoid Linux - the jerk percentage of the community is too high to make being involved with it tolerable. Your post would have been obnoxious and sanctimonious even in the context of a windows/linux discussion, but to shoehorn it into a thread about display devices reminds me of the people who can't pass up any conversation about difficult times without promoting their chosen religion. Funny, that.

        As if that wasn't all bad enough, you have the added double-whammy of your being utterly wrong about tech while presenting yourself as an expert on said tech! My main Windows machine happily runs Photoshop CS6, Indesign, Visual Studio, Illustrator, a dynamically-generated desktop background, several FTP applications, a dozen file manager windows, fullscreen H.264 playback, and eight or nine separate instances of Chome, each with upwards of 10 tabs, simultaneously, on six monitors, without the slightest flicker of a problem. And it hasn't been restarted in weeks.

        So, in summary, you're pushy, arrogant, sanctimonious; you insulted the person you were 'giving advice' to, and, to top it off, you're wrong. And yet I suspect you wonder with a sense of personal grievance why the people you 'help' don't change (I'm sorry - 'upgrade') their OSes, thank you profusely, and send your flowers for your birthday.

        How unreasonable indeed it is of the world to not see you for the helpful and benevolent bringer of Truth you really are!

        Sometimes I wish that more of Richard Stallman's acolytes would behave as he does - refusing to browse the web on his own computer based on the risk of accidentally hitting a server that runs Windows, and resorting to requesting web sites to be downloaded via wget and emailed to him. Yes, I'm serious - look at his web site (Yes, he has one; he has other people maintain it since he refuses on principle.) The internet would be a much nicer place to discuss technical issues - hell, I might even give Linux another shot. Until then...

        1. Keep Refrigerated

          re: Arrogant jerks like you are part of the reason I avoid Linux...

          If you're basing your OS choice on who is a jerk in what community, you're doing it wrong.

          Yes the Linux "community" has jerks, just like the Apple "community", the Unix "community" and *shock* *horror* the Windows "community".

          Every "community" has it's fair share of arrogant jerks - including El Reg. Whatever OS you choose to go with*, go with it for it's technical merits and the support you get, not because there's a few chair-throwing, lawyer-upping, dev-bashing jerks advocating it.

          *Also applies to life in general.

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        Note no mention of OS.

        Do not feed.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: AC@16:30

          "Note no mention of OS."

          The guy has 18 terminals open and quantifies performance with the load average. What OS do you think he's running?

      4. Trixr
        Paris Hilton

        Where's the "wanker" icon when you need it?

        Yeah, who gives a toss about your system load without any idea of the underlying hardware spec?

        And no, I don't give a toss your hardware spec EITHER.

      5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        As well as being an annoying arse, our anonymous Coward is also a bit of a liar. I present two quotes to you. From the OP we have:

        I currently have... 21 windows open on this PC, one of those is Firefox with a dozen tabs as well. And it's a fairly light day today at work and I've been quite focused in the things I'm working on. Some days there's far more than that and the pc struggles to handle it.

        And from the cut'n'paste job of our Windows-bashing idiot we have:

        > I currently have... 21 windows open on this PC, one of those is Firefox with a dozen tabs ... and the pc struggles to handle it.

        Notice the rather crucial difference?

        I'm never quite sure when to ignore trolls and when to respond. Partly because you're never sure with the anonymous ones whether they're trolls or tools. You get to learn by experience with the named ones.

        I guess with misquoting skills like that, they should be able to get a job with the Today Program on Radio 4, or most newspapers.

        1. jai

          one issue with the AC's advise too - ignoring that this is an old, underspecced work pc which is tightly locked down preventing the possibility of installing an alternative web browser, let alone a new OS - if i did switch to his preferred OS, i'd need to look for a new job, as we run a lot of proprietary software, written many years ago, no doubt highly inefficient and the main reason for the poor performance, which may or may not run under emulation in something like wine but regardless, there is neither the budget nor resources to fully regression test and prove that. which is why we're still running everything under WinXP and only recently purchased servers run anything as new as WinServer2008!

          the other issue is, i am, to use the parlance of someone posting above, a mac jerk, so if i was going to be switching OS's here at work, it wouldn't be in the direction of the penguin-botherers.

  8. PerspexAvenger

    The multi-tablet thing seems like a marvellous solution in search of a problem.

    What, IMO, they need to do is fix the form-factor; scrap the cables and just mount a tubular computing/power core at the bottom of the page and tadaa - roll-up Kindle.

    I'd buy one.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Would be interesting to know what the minimum bending radius is...

      1. Big_Ted


        Flat ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think there's something you don't quite understand about "radius".

          1. Sandtreader

            ... or possibly "minimum".

      2. Adam 1

        It's over 9000!!!

  9. Khaptain Silver badge

    Multi Bendy Page Animations

    If someone glued several of these bendy pages into some kind of Hardback/softback binder we could flip the pages over and make some clever little animations......

  10. Liam Thom

    Could be useful

    All this needs is some device that pulls the paper taut and presents it to the user in a vertical format.

  11. drdom
    Thumb Down

    Sod it - anyone seen my bendy screen? I swear I left it right on my desk on top of that pile of bendy screens, next to the pile of bendy screens for filing and the other pile of miscellaneous bendy screens I haven't had time to look at yet.

    Some of these scientist johnnies obviously never had a proper job in an office in the eighties.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bet Apple and Samsung are crapping themselves - LAUGHING.

    The b/w kindle must be pretty dead by now - so what hope does this have?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure the one you're developing is soooooo fabulous.

    2. Dana W

      The B/W Kindle is NOT dead. People who want to READ are still buying them. The Kindle fire and its ilk are not really e-readers as much as they are general content devices, and do not provide the level of reading comfort and clarity. (Or the low cost and extreme battery life.)

      I use a tablet AND a Kindle. Serious reading on an LCD is just not as good .

      Now e-ink for what this video is showing on the other hand is just silly.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >Bet Apple and Samsung are crapping themselves - LAUGHING.

        Apple and Samsung employ people to look at this, and similar technologies, with interest.

  13. Pet Peeve


    Does anyone understand the concept of tech demo? The cables are there because the research is to make a bendy screen, not to make a full final product. e-ink displays need very little power, eventually the electronics/battery could go along one edge, inductively charged. Most of the pieces to do it exist in some form, except for the actual flexible display, which was the whole point of the demo.

    I don't think this would replace a big screen for me, but as extra displays that I can take the PDF I want to read while laid back on the chair, or as a great way to keep working notes that I can still cut and paste to my main workspace, I think this will be a great thing when it matures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "alas"

      No point in a bendy screen if you need the rest of the components that are not bendy - not sure how safe a bendy battery would be and a CPU? It is going to be a touch device - if not it's pretty far behind the market now.

      When you look at something like an 10" iPad (or Android equivalent) you can see that is the future a lot more than this trying to emulate paper which surely we are trying to get away from?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: "alas"

      Exactly, spending money on making a case to house the battery and CPU wouldn't help people to grok the screen tech any better, so they didn't bother.

  14. The FunkeyGibbon

    I'd be interested in the duribility aspect

    Bending like that introduces repetitive stresses along common lines so I'd be interested in the long term test data but unlike some of the Luddites here I can see a potential future for this. The problem here is too many people are thinking of offices, homes and so on. This is the kind of tech that will find a home in various aspects of industry and possibly education too. Besides nobody would want to try to use George H. Heilmeier's first LCD but through time it ultimately lead to the LCD screens we all use today. Dismissing a technology in it's relative infancy is a foolish pastime.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If this replaces anything you can...

    Bite my shiny metal ass

  16. Ralph B

    Has Some Promise

    Combine a bendy display to a pop armband and you have a rather nice (IMHO) phone format(s).

  17. Measurer

    Possible usage

    These things are going to be great for displaying relatively simple sets of data on top of curved surfaces, which may or may not move periodically. When these screens were first talked about, around 10 years ago, I worked as an industrial design engineer. The industrial machines I was working on had just had a 'sexy', curved cover revamp, and we seriously looked at the maturity of the tech. in order to put a simple HMI readout directly on the curved front cover, rather than having a permanently mounted monitor arm etc.

    Repetitive strain and min. bend radius definitely an issue though where the panels are manually handled.

    F1 teams could sell the same piece of car advertising space, multiple times, on a time share basis (weight of system allowing).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Possible usage

      "(weight of system allowing)."

      It wouldn't - nor would packaging / space requirements. And I doubt this is capable of a multiple-axis bend - which requires stretching; there are few if any radii on a modern F1 car that are 'straight' bends.

      Plus, the packaging is done down to the millimeter; adding even the slightest shred of weight or thickness would be suicide.

      That and the fact that the teams are required by the FIA to run the same livery each race...

      Might work for touring cars, though.

  18. mraak


    Some things just have to be hard to function properly. How about some bendable spoons?

    1. Ian K

      Re: Riiiiight

      There is no spoon.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Riiiiight

        >How about some bendable spoons?

        My baby nephew has one... silicone I think, so that whilst being spoon-fed there is no danger of bashing his milk-teeth should he decide to shift his head.

        Larger flexible spoons, again silicone, are used for cooking, in particular for scraping the last of the sauce from the bottom of the pan.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Riiiiight

      "Some things just have to be hard to function properly."

      That's what she said.

  19. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I can think of an application: Dynamic posters for CS Conferences

    I would love to have one of these in A0 size that I can put into a standard roll for posters, so I can show off my image and 3D medical volume processing and visualization algorithms on the poster itself. That would be seriously cool. All I would need is to hook it up to the laptop (for the required computational oomph) as a huge external screen. You could even support touch-based interaction.

    I could even remove any typos I left, or let viewers supply their own images

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can think of an application: Dynamic posters for CS Conferences

      In black and white? Dead cool.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I can think of an application: Dynamic posters for CS Conferences

        >In black and white? Dead cool.

        I'll think you'll find that many mediums started out in monochrome before progressing to colour... printing (by various methods), photography, cinema, television, computer displays...

  20. Sandtreader

    Empty gestures

    New gestures:

    To delete the current file, scrumple up screen and toss in recycling bin.

    To shred the current file, rip screen in half or set light to it

    To archive current file, spike on sharp vertical spike on desk (HSE's nightmare)

    To e-mail current file, folder screen, put in in envelope and hand deliver to recipient

    To decrypt current file, soak screen in benzene and hold over a light source


    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Empty gestures

      You forgot:

      "Fold into paper aeroplane shape and hope that El Reg SPB don't get their hands on it"

    2. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Empty gestures

      So you have fold, spindle, and mutilate... well played! You did not, however, include a procedure for encryption despite having worked out a decryption method. I vote it should involve origami.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    behind the curve.

    Oh dear , I have only just embraced the tablet world.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real uses...

    These are ideal to replace those posters people stick on round posts (e.g. Missing Cat), or even proper adverts on round columns. Another use could be wearable screens on t-shirts (or even inside jackets). OR, if they made them big enough (and colour, etc) they could start to replace large projection screens where a curve is preferable...

    OR just roll it up and make an interactive kaleidoscope

    Just a thought or two

  23. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I've thought of a use

    Interactive paper aeroplanes. It's the wave of the future!

    When are El Reg going to do Paris II?

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Scores points for using a new UI *enabled* by the technology.

    Rather than tacked on top (I haven't forgotten the PoS that was Pen Windows).

    Although I'm thinking someone has read "The Diamond Age," along with Xerox's work on "plaques."

    The problem as always with PL's stuff is the price. You've now got multiple laptops on your desk. The price/sheet would have to drop drastically. Which might work if PL's idea worked out.

    There might be a way to make this work out if the sheets become wireless peripherals of small format PC running this interface. The sheets retain the last thing sent to them on the screen.

    Now what happens if part of that image is an icon for a large file? Where does is the underlying item kept and if you were to tap your sheet to a colleagues how would it be transferred? Now what if it was A.N. Random's sheet in another country? How does that work.

    Thumbs up for the UI.

  25. A n o n y m o u s

    They were too busy seeing if they could - they did not stop to think if they should?

  26. b166er

    Sony did this 5 years ago!

    Youtube video of OLED flexible screen

    And this at least 2 years ago (according to youtube upload date)

    Youtube video of rollable display

    So WTF! where's my bendable screen?

    It only needs a 10mm bend radius and we're done.

  27. squigbobble
    Thumb Up

    I want a roll-out screen like on Red Planet

    It won't get scratched in your pocket and the electronics to drive it can all be rigid and bunged in the end. Even if it just wrapped round the device, that would be almost as good and leave more space for other stuff.

    On a side note, the Carpica vision of e-paper has totally jaded me :(

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I want a roll-out screen like on Red Planet

      Branded IBM, I note, just like the tablets in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

      Was it Red Planet that had really quite stupid 'scientists' before Prometheus made them mainstream, or was that Mission to Mars? I get them confused.

      Lt Ripley: Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

    2. squigbobble

      Re: I want a roll-out screen like on Red Planet

      Caprica, even.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    How soon before Apple sues

    For the use of their patented "dog-ear gesture?"

  29. Benchops

    At 1m13s

    "It is very easy for users to draw and drag graphical objects across multiple tabs as you would with paper"

    I can't get it to work with paper. Am I holding it wrong?

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