onto flexible fabric on
raincoat light up in
response to rain.
the other examples
we’ve outlined here,
even the relatively
limited behavior of
such a system can
be parlayed into a
sophisticated multichannel output
device through creativity of process
tion techniques are also applicable to standard (
end-emitting) fibers, resulting in small points of light
rather than glowing lines or strands.
Discrete light-emitting diode (LED) lights are
also used to create active surface topologies.
Although LEDs are not inherently flexible, their
small manufacturable size and simple circuitry
means they can be dispersed over a flexible substrate.
ColorKinetics, Inc. ( www.colorkinetics.com) and
Element Labs ( www.elementlabs.com) offer products that incorporate LEDs into collapsible bendable matrix configurations and flexible strands.
Others embed matrices of LEDs in flexible substrates that can be curved, formed to a surface, and
even used as a wearable material. Lumalive technology from Philips Research ( www.lumalive.com/
business/) features fabrics and clothes embedded
with LED matrix displays constructed in this
Innovative display interfaces are not limited to
light-emitting sources. Alternative active materials
(such as thermochromic inks that change color with
temperature) can be used to construct novel
display surfaces. A number of artists and designers,
including International Fashion Machines (
ifma-chines.com) and XS Labs ( www.xslabs.net), have
used these inks as overprints on top of textiles that
incorporate conductive spun threads. When a current is applied to the textile, resistive heating activates the printed ink and initiates a color change.
Heating and cooling the metal filament manipulates
the color of the textile-display over time [ 1]. As with
The practical application of flexible displays to particular user scenarios appears to be strongest in the
fields of product, military, and fashion design. Flexibility or perhaps elasticity is inherently desirable for
anything worn on the body. The tactile properties of
soft and malleable surfaces also make sense in myriad design and interactive environments. What is
interesting about the general domain of nonrigid
displays is that so many aspects of design and engineering converge to generate displays that are also
materials. From them we can imagine displays that
curve to fit any space or form, flex to accommodate
motion, and deform in response to physical interaction. Rollable or foldable displays for portable
devices, large-scale interactive surfaces, and textiles
with integrated displays in turn permit the design of
user interfaces that are physically, as well as conceptually, flexible. c
1. Berzowska, J. and Bromley, M. Soft computation through conductive
textiles. In Proceedings of the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes Conference (Toronto, Apr. 12– 15, 2007).
2. Lieberman, D. Divergence of e-paper displays. EETimes (Dec. 3, 2007).
ELISE CO ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a media artist and founding partner
of Aeolab, a design and technology consulting firm in Los Angeles.
NIKITA PASHENKOV ( email@example.com) is a co-founder of Aeolab,
a design and technology firm in Los Angeles.
© 2008 ACM 0001-0782/08/0600 $5.00