We hear about computers becoming invisible within products, but IT is also poised to make an impact on their exteriors. The electronic display of the future will move on from clunky cathode ray tubes and fragile LCD screens to something akin to a tabloid newspaper you can roll up and stick in your back pocket.
Cambridge Display Technology, for example, is working on light-emitting polymers (LEPs) that glow like today's screens but can also be moulded round products as a thin layer. Basic LEP screens can already be laid down by ink-jet printers, and development should see graphic displays becoming the skins of tomorrow's products.
In Germany, meanwhile, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute are compacting 3D technology into two dimensions by embedding barely detectable microchips in 'intelligent paper'. Expect flat and flexible screens; chips to replace metal strips in banknotes; and headed notepaper that stores and displays much more than an A4 sheet.