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Flippin' heck, meet the Internet of Things wallpaper

LEDs, pah! UK inventor cooks up cheap fabric alternative to giant displays

British inventor Andrew Fentem has come up with a way of cheaply turning fabric into large active displays.

Fentem, who pioneered multitouch input technology 15 years ago, only to see a UK quango squander the innovation and Apple reap the reward, calls the new display “organic pixels”.

He’s invented an ulta-thin magnetic actuator, fractions of a millimetre thick, which can be applied fabric to create a “pixel”.

The programmable actuators create enough of a magnetic field to “flip” the pixel. This allows a vast display to be created at much lower cost than an arena-scale LED display.

"Many engineers work under classic assumption that future is going to be white and shiny and invisible. I don’t think that’s going to be the case," Fentem said.

The original aim was to create an "Internet of Things" wallpaper, with a Japanese paper crafts feel, he told us.

“The invention came out of setting a hard constraint that whatever it was had to be printable; current bulky flip-dot technology costs around $1 per pixel, and this much cheaper to manufacture, around $0.10 per pixel which is very competitive with LEDs, and potentially resurrects an obsolete technology," he added.

The “Flick Pixels” can be made of almost any material. A brief video helps explain the concept and give a glimpse of its potential.

The electronics engineer worked in the defence industry at Thorn EMI before turning to research, focusing on input and visualisation technologies. More recently, he was an expert witness [interview] for Samsung in its litigation against Apple.

Fentem tells us (perhaps ominously) that it has been well received by the Large Area Electronics catapult centre at Cambridge University, who particularly like the fact it’s mass-customisable and potentially printable. So he's naturally keen on hearing from investors and supporters.

You can find out more here at Fentem’s site. ®

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