Tag Archives: Morph

Shades of the Nokia Morph: a smartphone than conforms to your wrist

A March 16, 2017 news item on Nanowerk brought back some memories for me,

Some day, your smartphone might completely conform to your wrist, and when it does, it might be covered in pure gold, thanks to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Nokia, a Finnish telecommunications company, was promoting its idea for a smartphone ‘and more’ that could be worn around your wrist in a concept called the Morph. It was introduced in 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (see my March 20, 2010 posting for one of my last updates on this moribund project). Here’s Nokia’s Morph video (almost 6 mins.),

Getting back to the present day, here’s what the Missouri researchers are working on,

An example of a gold foil peeled from single crystal silicon. Reprinted with permission from Naveen Mahenderkar et al., Science [355]:[1203] (2017)

A March 16, 2017 Missouri University of Science and Technology news release, by Greg Katski, which originated the news item, provides more details about this Missouri version (Note: A link has been removed),

Writing in the March 17 [2017] issue of the journal Science, the S&T researchers say they have developed a way to “grow” thin layers of gold on single crystal wafers of silicon, remove the gold foils, and use them as substrates on which to grow other electronic materials. The research team’s discovery could revolutionize wearable or “flexible” technology research, greatly improving the versatility of such electronics in the future.

According to lead researcher Jay A. Switzer, the majority of research into wearable technology has been done using polymer substrates, or substrates made up of multiple crystals. “And then they put some typically organic semiconductor on there that ends up being flexible, but you lose the order that (silicon) has,” says Switzer, Donald L. Castleman/FCR Endowed Professor of Discovery in Chemistry at S&T.

Because the polymer substrates are made up of multiple crystals, they have what are called grain boundaries, says Switzer. These grain boundaries can greatly limit the performance of an electronic device.

“Say you’re making a solar cell or an LED,” he says. “In a semiconductor, you have electrons and you have holes, which are the opposite of electrons. They can combine at grain boundaries and give off heat. And then you end up losing the light that you get out of an LED, or the current or voltage that you might get out of a solar cell.”

Most electronics on the market are made of silicon because it’s “relatively cheap, but also highly ordered,” Switzer says.

“99.99 percent of electronics are made out of silicon, and there’s a reason – it works great,” he says. “It’s a single crystal, and the atoms are perfectly aligned. But, when you have a single crystal like that, typically, it’s not flexible.”

By starting with single crystal silicon and growing gold foils on it, Switzer is able to keep the high order of silicon on the foil. But because the foil is gold, it’s also highly durable and flexible.

“We bent it 4,000 times, and basically the resistance didn’t change,” he says.

The gold foils are also essentially transparent because they are so thin. According to Switzer, his team has peeled foils as thin as seven nanometers.

Switzer says the challenge his research team faced was not in growing gold on the single crystal silicon, but getting it to peel off as such a thin layer of foil. Gold typically bonds very well to silicon.

“So we came up with this trick where we could photo-electrochemically oxidize the silicon,” Switzer says. “And the gold just slides off.”

Photoelectrochemical oxidation is the process by which light enables a semiconductor material, in this case silicon, to promote a catalytic oxidation reaction.

Switzer says thousands of gold foils—or foils of any number of other metals—can be made from a single crystal wafer of silicon.

The research team’s discovery can be considered a “happy accident.” Switzer says they were looking for a cheap way to make single crystals when they discovered this process.

“This is something that I think a lot of people who are interested in working with highly ordered materials like single crystals would appreciate making really easily,” he says. “Besides making flexible devices, it’s just going to open up a field for anybody who wants to work with single crystals.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Epitaxial lift-off of electrodeposited single-crystal gold foils for flexible electronics by Naveen K. Mahenderkar, Qingzhi Chen, Ying-Chau Liu, Alexander R. Duchild, Seth Hofheins, Eric Chason, Jay A. Switzer. Science  17 Mar 2017: Vol. 355, Issue 6330, pp. 1203-1206 DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5830

This paper is behind a paywall.

Flexible, graphene-based display: first ever?

It seems like there’s been a lot of discussion about flexible displays, graphene or not, over the years so the announcement of the first graphene-based flexible display might seem a little anticlimactic. That’s one of the problems with the technology and science communities. Sometimes there’s so much talk about an idea or concept that by the time it becomes reality people think it’s already been done and is not news.

So, kudos to the folks at the University of Cambridge who have been working on this development for a long time. From a Sept. 10, 2014 news release on EurekAlert,

The partnership between the two organisations combines the graphene expertise of the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC), with the transistor and display processing steps that Plastic Logic has already developed for flexible electronics. This prototype is a first example of how the partnership will accelerate the commercial development of graphene, and is a first step towards the wider implementation of graphene and graphene-like materials into flexible electronics.

The new prototype is an active matrix electrophoretic display, similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers, except it is made of flexible plastic instead of glass. In contrast to conventional displays, the pixel electronics, or backplane, of this display includes a solution-processed graphene electrode, which replaces the sputtered metal electrode layer within Plastic Logic’s conventional devices, bringing product and process benefits.

Graphene is more flexible than conventional ceramic alternatives like indium-tin oxide (ITO) and more transparent than metal films. The ultra-flexible graphene layer may enable a wide range of products, including foldable electronics. Graphene can also be processed from solution bringing inherent benefits of using more efficient printed and roll-to-roll manufacturing approaches.

The new 150 pixel per inch (150 ppi) backplane was made at low temperatures (less than 100°C) using Plastic Logic’s Organic Thin Film Transistor (OTFT) technology. The graphene electrode was deposited from solution and subsequently patterned with micron-scale features to complete the backplane.

For this prototype, the backplane was combined with an electrophoretic imaging film to create an ultra-low power and durable display. Future demonstrations may incorporate liquid crystal (LCD) and organic light emitting diodes (OLED) technology to achieve full colour and video functionality. Lightweight flexible active-matrix backplanes may also be used for sensors, with novel digital medical imaging and gesture recognition applications already in development.

“We are happy to see our collaboration with Plastic Logic resulting in the first graphene-based electrophoretic display exploiting graphene in its pixels’ electronics,” said Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. “This is a significant step forward to enable fully wearable and flexible devices. This cements the Cambridge graphene-technology cluster and shows how an effective academic-industrial partnership is key to help move graphene from the lab to the factory floor.”

As an example of how long this development has been in the works, I have a Nov. 7, 2011 posting about a University of Cambridge stretchable, electronic skin produced by what was then the university’s Nokia Research Centre. That ‘skin’ was a big step forward to achieving a phone/device/flexible display (the Morph), wrappable around your wrist, first publicized in 2008 as I noted in a March 30, 2010 posting.

According to the news release, there should be some more news soon,

This joint effort between Plastic Logic and the CGC was also recently boosted by a grant from the UK Technology Strategy Board, within the ‘realising the graphene revolution’ initiative. This will target the realisation of an advanced, full colour, OELD based display within the next 12 months.

My colleague Dexter Johnson has offered some business-oriented insight into this development at Cambridge in his Sept. 9, 2014 posting on the Nanoclast blog on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) website (Note: Links have been removed),

In the UK’s concerted efforts to become a hub for graphene commercialization, one of the key partnerships between academic research and industry has been the one between the Cambridge Graphene Centre located at the University of Cambridge and a number of companies, including Nokia, Dyson, BaE systems, Philips and Plastic Logic. The last on this list, Plastic Logic, was spun out originally from the University of Cambridge in 2000. However, since its beginnings it has required a $200 million investment from RusNano to keep itself afloat back in 2011 for a time called Mountain View, California, home.

The post is well worth reading for anyone interested in the twists and turns of graphene commercialization in the UK.

Shapeshifting on demand but no stretching yet: morphees

This research (Morphees) is from Bristol University where researchers have created prototypes for shapeshifting mobile devices,

A high-fidelity prototype using projection and tracking on wood tiles that are actuated with thin shape-memory alloy wires [downloaded from http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2013/9332.html/]

A high-fidelity prototype using projection and tracking on wood tiles that are actuated with thin shape-memory alloy wires [downloaded from http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2013/9332.html/]

The Apr. 28, 2013 news release on EurekAlert provides more detail,

The research, led by Dr Anne Roudaut and Professor Sriram Subramanian, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, have used ‘shape resolution’ to compare the resolution of six prototypes the team have built using the latest technologies in shape changing material, such as shape memory alloy and electro active polymer.

One example of a device is the team’s concept of Morphees, self-actuated flexible mobile devices that can change shape on-demand to better fit the many services they are likely to support.

The team believe Morphees will be the next generation of mobile devices, where users can download applications that embed a dedicated form factor, for instance the “stress ball app” that collapses the device in on itself or the “game app” that makes it adopt a console-like shape.

Dr Anne Roudaut, Research Assistant in the Department of Computer Science’s Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, said: “The interesting thing about our work is that we are a step towards enabling our mobile devices to change shape on-demand. Imagine downloading a game application on the app-store and that the mobile phone would shape-shift into a console-like shape in order to help the device to be grasped properly. The device could also transform into a sphere to serve as a stress ball, or bend itself to hide the screen when a password is being typed so passers-by can’t see private information.”

By comparing the shape resolution of their prototypes, the researchers have created insights to help designers towards creating high shape resolution Morphees.

In the future the team hope to build higher shape resolution Morphees by investigating the flexibility of materials. They are also interested in exploring other kinds of deformations that the prototypes did not explore, such as porosity and stretchability.

Here’s the video where the researchers demonstrate their morphees,

The work will be presented at ACM CHI 2013, sometime between Saturday 27 April to Thursday 2 May 2013, in Paris, France. For those who’d like to see the paper which will be presented, here’s a link to it,

Morphees: Toward High “Shape Resolution” in Self-Actuated Flexible Mobile Devices by
Anne Roudaut, Abhijit Karnik, Markus Löchtefeld, and Sriram Subramanian

After reading the news release and watching the video, I am reminded of the ‘morph’ concept, a shapeshifting, wearable device proposed by Cambridge University and Nokia. Last I wrote about that project, they had announced a stretchable skin, as per my Nov. 7, 2011 posting.

For those who are interested in what ACM CHI 2013 is all about, from the home page,

The ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference on human-computer interaction. CHI 2013 is about changing perspectives: we draw from the constantly changing perspectives of the diverse CHI community and beyond, but we also change perspectives, offering new visions of people interacting with technology. The conference is multidisciplinary, drawing from science, engineering and design, with contributions from research and industry in 15 different venues. CHI brings together students and experts from over 60 countries, representing different cultures and different application areas, whose diverse perspectives influence each other.

CHI 2013 is located in vibrant Paris, France, the most visited city in the world. The conference will be held at the Palais de Congrès de Paris. First in Europe in research and development, with the highest concentration of higher education students in Europe, Paris is a world-class center for business and culture, with over 3800 historical monuments.The Louvre’s pyramid captures the spirit of CHI’13, offering diverse perspectives on design and technology, contrasting the old and new. The simple glass sides reveal inner complexity, sometimes transparent, sometimes reflecting the people and buildings that surround it, in the constantly
changing Paris light.

CHI 2013 welcomes works addressing research on all aspects of human-computer interaction (HCI), as well as case studies of interactive system designs, innovative proof-of-concept, and presentations by experts on the latest challenges and innovations in the field. In addition to a long-standing focus on professionals in design, engineering, management, and user experience; this year’s conference has made special efforts to serve communities in the areas of: design, management, engineering, user experience, arts, sustainability, children, games and health. We look forward to seeing you at CHI 2013 in Paris!

As I recall, ACM stands for Association of Computing Machinery, CHI stands for computer-human interface, and SIG stands for Special Interest Group.

ETA May 13, 2013: I meant to do this two weeks ago (Apr. 30,2013), ah well. Roel Vertegaal and his team at Canada’s Queen’s University introduced something called a MorePhone, which can curl up and change shape, at the CHI 2013. From the Apr. 30, 2013 news release on EurekAlert*,

Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed a new smartphone – called MorePhone – which can morph its shape to give users a silent yet visual cue of an incoming phone call, text message or email.

“This is another step in the direction of radically new interaction techniques afforded by smartphones based on thin film, flexible display technologies” says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University who developed the flexible PaperPhone and PaperTab.

“Users are familiar with hearing their phone ring or feeling it vibrates in silent mode. One of the problems with current silent forms of notification is that users often miss notifications when not holding their phone. With MorePhone, they can leave their smartphone on the table and observe visual shape changes when someone is trying to contact them.”

MorePhone is not a traditional smartphone. It is made of a thin, flexible electrophoretic display manufactured by Plastic Logic – a British company and a world leader in plastic electronics. Sandwiched beneath the display are a number of shape memory alloy wires that contract when the phone notifies the user. This allows the phone to either curl either its entire body, or up to three individual corners. Each corner can be tailored to convey a particular message. For example, users can set the top right corner of the MorePhone to bend when receiving a text message, and the bottom right corner when receiving an email. Corners can also repeatedly bend up and down to convey messages of greater urgency.

I have written about Vertegaal and his team’s ‘paper’ devices previously. The most recent piece is this Jan. 9, 2013 posting, Canada’s Queen’s University strikes again with its ‘paper’ devices. You can find out more about Plastic Logic here.

*’Eurkealert’ changed to ‘EurekAlert’ on Feb. 17, 2016.

Nokia’s stretchable, electronic skin

It looks like Nokia and Cambridge University are one step closer, with a stretchable, electronic skin, to creating a flexible phone (first promoted as a Morph phone). According to the Nov.7, 2011 posting by Dawinderpal Sahota on telecoms.com,

Nokia has revealed it is using nanotechnology to create a new breed of smartphone that is flexible, stretchable and operated by physical manipulation.

The firm’s research and development arm – Nokia Research Center – has been working with scientists at The University of Cambridge to create products that it hopes will revolutionise the appearance and interface of handsets in the future.

The firm is working on two concepts – one that utilises flexible touchscreen technology, allowing phones to be controlled and navigated by squeezing and twisting the device, and another that allows the user to ‘wear’ the phone, effectively as another layer of their skin.

“Nano-enablers allow us to make products that are really revolutionary devices compared to what we see today. One thing that all designers have dreamed about is free-shape, free-form products that could be more organic and put components in a different places,” explained Tapani Jokinen, head of design technology insights at Nokia.

I last wrote about Nokia’s Morph phone/concept in my Aug. 3, 2011 posting where I noted that the company had made an announcement about graphene as enabling the development of a flexible phone. Sahota’s article goes on to note some of the advantages of what I suspect are graphene-based electronics,

He [Jokinen] added that in today’s smartphones, there are certain prominent features and dominant components; a touch screen has to be big, lithium batteries also need a lot of space and this is why all of the phones in the market have “sandwich structures”; a front cover, a back cover and layered components between those.

“What nanotechnology would bring is that we could have the energy sources in each component, for example, antennas could have their own energy sources, which would be nano-enabled supercapacitor batteries, which are small and flexible. …”

Nokia Research Centre Cambridge has developed a stretchable, electronic skin that you can see in this video,

Buckypaper and nanocrystalline cellulose; two different paths to the same ends?

Buckypaper interests me largely because of its name (along with Buckyballs and Buckytubes [usually called carbon nanotubes]). I believe the names are derived from Buckminsterfullerenes a form of carbon engineered (it can be found in nature) in the labs at Rice University. From the Wikipedia essay on Buckminsterfullerenes,

Buckminsterfullerene is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula C60. It was first prepared in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James Heath, Sean O’Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley at Rice University.  Kroto, Curl, and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of buckminsterfullerene and the related class of molecules, the fullerenes. The name is an homage to Richard Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes it resembles. Buckminsterfullerene was the first fullerene molecule discovered and it is also the most common in terms of natural occurrence, as it can be found in small quantities in soot.

Buckypaper is a main focus at the High Performance Materials Institute at the Florida State University, which has just *released a promotional video (according to the Oct. 3, 2011 news item on Nanowerk). Here’s the video,

It reminds me a little of the video for Nokia’s Morph concept, which was released a few years back. I haven’t heard any substantive news about that project although there are the occasional updates. For example, the Morph was originally described it as a phone and then they changed it to the Morph concept. I’d love to see a prototype one of these days. (There’s more about the Morph and its incarnations in my Sept. 29, 2010 posting.)

The descriptions for applications using Buckypaper reminded me of nanocrystalline cellulose as I’ve seen some of the same claims made for that substance. I’m hoping to hear about the new plant in Windsor, Québec which is supposed to be opening this fall. From the ArboraNano new projects page,

Currently, Canada has an 18- to 24-month global lead in the commercial production of NCC as a 1 ton/day demonstration plant located in Windsor, Quebec enters the final phases of construction. Startup is planned for Fall 2011.

It’s good to see all these different research efforts and to reflect on the innovation being demonstrated.

* Nov. 27, 2013: changed ‘release’ to ‘released’.

Graphene dreams of the Morph

For anyone who’s not familiar with the Morph, it’s an idea that Nokia and the University of Cambridge’s Nanoscience Centre have been working on for the last few years. Originally announced as a type of flexible phone that you could wrap around your wrist, the Morph is now called a concept.  Here’s an animation illustrating some of the concepts which include flexibility and self-cleaning,

There have been very few announcements of any kind about the Morph or the technology that will support this concept. A few months ago, they did make an announcement about researching graphene as a means of actualizing the concept (noted in my May 6, 2011 posting [scroll down about 1/2 way]).

Interestingly the latest research published  on graphene and the flexible, transparent screens that are necessary to making something like the Morph a reality has come from a lab at Rice University. From the August 1, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The lab of Rice chemist James Tour lab has created thin films that could revolutionize touch-screen displays, solar panels and LED lighting. The research was reported in the online edition of ACS Nano (“Rational Design of Hybrid Graphene Films for High-Performance Transparent Electrodes”).

Flexible, see-through video screens may be the “killer app” that finally puts graphene — the highly touted single-atom-thick form of carbon — into the commercial spotlight once and for all, Tour said. Combined with other flexible, transparent electronic components being developed at Rice and elsewhere, the breakthrough could lead to computers that wrap around the wrist and solar cells that wrap around just about anything. [emphasis mine]

The lab’s hybrid graphene film is a strong candidate to replace indium tin oxide (ITO), a commercial product widely used as a transparent, conductive coating. It’s the essential element in virtually all flat-panel displays, including touch screens on smart phones and iPads, and is part of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and solar cells.

Here’s James Tour and Yu Zhu, the paper’s lead author, explaining how the flexible screen was developed,

There are other flexible screens and competitors to the Morph notably the PaperPhone mentioned in my May 6,2011 posting (scroll down about 2/3 of the way) and in my May 12, 2011 posting featuring an interview with Roel Vertegaal of Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, about the PaperPhone. (We did not discuss the role that graphene might or might not play in the development of the Paperphone’s screens.)

I wonder what impact this work at Rice will have not only for the Morph and the PaperPhone but on the European Union’s pathfinder research competition (the prize is $1B Euros), mentioned in my June 13, 2011 posting about graphene (scroll down about 1/3 of the way). Graphene is one of the research areas being considered for the prize.

ETA Aug. 5, 2011: Tour’s team just published another paper on graphene, one that proves you can make it from anything containing carbon according the Aug. 4, 2011 news item, One Box of Girl Scout Cookies Worth $15 Billion: Lab Shows Troop How Any Carbon Source Can Become Valuable Graphene, on Science Daily,

The cookie gambit started on a dare when Tour mentioned at a meeting that his lab had produced graphene from table sugar.

“I said we could grow it from any carbon source — for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time,” Tour recalled. “So one of the people in the room said, ‘Yes, please do it. … Let’s see that happen.'”

Members of Girl Scouts of America Troop 25080 came to Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process. Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, lead author of the paper, and Zhengzong Sun calculated that at the then-commercial rate for pristine graphene — $250 for a two-inch square — a box of traditional Girl Scout shortbread cookies could turn a $15 billion profit.

Here’s the full reference for this second paper,

Gedeng Ruan, Zhengzong Sun, Zhiwei Peng, James M. Tour. Growth of Graphene from Food, Insects and Waste. ACS Nano, 2011; 110729113834087 DOI: 10.1021/nn202625c

The article is behind a paywall.

From the bleeding edge to the cutting edge to ubiquitous? The PaperPhone, an innovation case study in progress

This story has it all: military, patents, international competition and cooperation, sex (well, not according to the academics but I think it’s possible), and a bizarre device – the PaperPhone (last mentioned in my May 6, 2011 posting on Human-Computer Interfaces).

“If you want to know what technologies people will be using 10 years in the future, talk to the people who’ve been working on a lab project for 10 years,” said Dr. Roel Vertegaal, Director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. By the way, 10 years is roughly the length of time Vertegaal and his team have been working on a flexible/bendable phone/computer and he believes that it will be another five to 10 years before the device is available commercially.

Image from Human Media Lab press kit

As you can see in the image, the prototype device looks like a thin piece of plastic that displays a menu. In real life that black bit to the left of the image is the head of a cable with many wires connecting it to a computer. Here’s a physical description of the device copied from the paper (PaperPhone: Understanding the Use of Bend Gestures in Mobile Devices with Flexible Electronic Paper Displays) written by Byron Lahey, Audrey Girouard, Winslow Burleson and Vertegaal,

PaperPhone consists of an Arizona State University Flexible Display Center 3.7” Bloodhound flexible electrophoretic display, augmented with a layer of 5 Flexpoint 2” bidirectional bend sensors. The prototype is driven by an E Ink Broadsheet AM 300 Kit featuring a Gumstix processor. The prototype has a refresh rate of 780 ms for a typical full screen gray scale image.

An Arduino microcontroller obtains data from the Flexpoint bend sensors at a frequency of 20 Hz. Figure 2 shows the back of the display, with the bend sensor configuration mounted on a flexible printed circuit (FPC) of our own design. We built the FPC by printing its design on DuPont Pyralux flexible circuit material with a solid ink printer, then etching the result to obtain a fully functional flexible circuit substrate. PaperPhone is not fully wireless. This is because of the supporting rigid electronics that are required to drive the display. A single, thin cable bundle connects the AM300 and Arduino hardware to the display and sensors. This design maximizes the flexibility and mobility of the display, while keeping its weight to a minimum. The AM300 and Arduino are connected to a laptop running a Max 5 patch that processes sensor data, performs bend gesture recognition and sends images to the display. p. 3

It may look ungainly but it represents a significant step forward for the technology as this team (composed of researchers from Queen’s University, Arizona State University, and E Ink Corporation) appears to have produced the only working prototype in the world for a personal portable flexible device that will let you make phone calls, play music, read a book, and more by bending it. As they continue to develop the product, the device will become wireless.

The PaperPhone and the research about ‘bending’, i.e., the kinds of bending gestures people would find easiest and most intuitive to use when activating the device, were presented in Vancouver in an early session at the CHI 2011 Conference where I got a chance to speak to Dr. Vertegaal and his team.

Amongst other nuggets, I found out the US Department of Defense (not DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] oddly enough) has provided funding for the project. Military interest is focused on the device’s low energy requirements, lowlight screen, and light weight in addition to its potential ability to be folded up and carried like a piece of paper (i. e., it could mould itself to fit a number of tight spaces) as opposed to the rigid, ungiving borders of a standard mobile device. Of course, all of these factors are quite attractive to consumers too.

As is imperative these days, the ‘bends’ that activate the device have been patented and Vertegaal is in the process of developing a startup company that will bring this device and others to market. Queen’s University has an ‘industrial transfer’ office (they probably call it something else) which is assisting him with the startup.

There is international interest in the PaperPhone that is collaborative and competitive. Vertegaal’s team at Queen’s is partnered with a team at Arizona State University led by Dr. Winslow Burleson, professor in the Computer Systems Engineering and the Arts, Media, and Engineering graduate program and with Michael McCreary, Vice President Research & Development of E Ink Corporation representing an industry partner.

On the competitive side of things, the UK’s University of Cambridge and the Finnish Nokia Research Centre have been working on the Morph which as I noted in my May 6, 2011 posting still seems to be more concept than project.

Vertegaal noted that the idea of a flexible screen is not new and that North American companies have gone bankrupt trying to bring the screens to market. These days, you have to go to Taiwan for industrial production of flexible screens such as the PaperPhone’s.

One of my last questions to the team was about pornography. (In the early days of the Internet [which had its origins in military research], there were only two industries that made money online, pornography and gambling. The gambling opportunities seem pretty similar to what we already enjoy.) After an amused response, the consensus was that like gambling it’s highly unlikely a flexible phone could lend itself to anything new in the field of pornography. Personally, I’m not convinced about that one.

So there you have a case study for innovation. Work considered bleeding edge 10 years ago is now cutting edge and, in the next five to 10 years, that work will be become a consumer product. Along the way you have military investment, international collaboration and competition, failure and success, and, possibly, sex.

The poetry of Canadian Copyright Law

Techdirt had an item, Intellectual Property Laws Rewrittten as Poetry. The poet, Yehuda Berlinger, has included Canada’s copyright law in the oeuvre. You can read the verse here. It’s surprisingly informative given how amusing and concise the verses are.

On a completely other note, there’s an article in Fast Company about a haptic exhibition in Japan that’s quite intriguing in light of the Nokia Morph. Part of an exhibit last year, the Morph concept is a flexible, foldable, bendable (you get the idea) phone. As far as I know, they (University of Cambridge and Nokia) have yet to produce a prototype (last year they had an animation which demonstrated the concept). Getting back to Japan, one of the exhibits was a design for speakers where you control the volume by changing their shapes. Haptic Speakers: Reach Out and Touch Some Sound is the article. Do go and read it. I found it very helpful to see the pictures (which seems ironic given that the article is about the sense of touch).

I’ve been curious about research concerning disabled folks and using their ‘thought waves’ to control equipment or machinery. I’ve found a description of some of the research in Richard Jones’s blog but it’s in the context of a discussion of Ray Kurzweil and some of Kurzweil’s ideas regarding the ‘singularity’. Anyway, Jones offers a good description of some of the ‘thought wave’ research. As for Kurzweil, one of these days I will try and read some of the material he’s written. The little I have seen suggests that he has absolutely no concept of human nature, in much the same way that economists don’t.