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Imagine sitting at a coffee shop with your iPad, kindle, tablet or smartphone. Except, when you’re done using it, you don’t place it back in its cover and into your briefcase, suitcase or handbag as per usual… instead, you bend, fold or roll it into a much smaller device and put it in your pocket or clutch purse.
This is quite literally the future of all hand-held devices and with researchers at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia making leaps and bounds in the development of flexible touch screen technology, we are teetering on the frontier of a new era of electronics… of bendable electronics that we could even end up wearing as clothes or as robotic skins.
“The technology that we’re working on is a flexible, stressable sensor that can also sense the proximity of a finger,” explains one researcher currently working on the project. “This will enable the current hand-devices to be flexible, stressable, bendable and even rollable. Flexible electronics is definitely the next ‘big thing.’”
The innovation of such flexible touch screen technology will surely open up a whole new horizon of possibilities for hand-held devices and the way we fundamentally interact with them. Not only will our phones and tablets and the way we transport them change, but also we’re looking at the birth of wearable smart devices and touch screen skins.
In fact, according to the University of British Columbia researchers, this current project is “part of a larger effort to create wearable devices and to create robotic skins.”
The innovative, flexible touch screens are created from two materials that are actually very low cost, which is one of the attractive features of the new technology. The one material is a gel, which is combined with a very low cost silicon-based material that is highly stretchable, flexible and transparent. Once put together in a simple molding process, a slim film of the combined materials is generated, between which a mesh of touch screen sensors are sandwiched.
At the moment, the size of these sensor films are on the centimeter’s scale but the goal is to generate films on the meter’s scale, thereby allowing these researchers to produce vast sheets of touch screen sensors that can be used in the fabrication of smart clothing and for a myriad of other applications.
“We could potentially put sensors everywhere… throughout the house and over the surface of the body,” says one researcher.
This bold innovation of new and almost outlandish touch screen technology is proof that, while it might seem like it’s been taken from the pages of some futuristic science fiction novel, the “future” has very much arrived!
Watch the interview with the University of British Columbia researchers here.