Disney researchers create magical “smart paper”

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

magic Disney paper
Paper Generator can be used to play interactive games with a buddy! Who will make the light in the center of the tree flash first?

Remember the good old days when people used to read real books with pages, ink, and that old parchment smell? It seems like those times are long gone now, especially since it’s become so normal to use e-books – digital versions that can be displayed on tablets and smartphones.

Well, I have a strong feeling books are going to make a huge comeback, since Disney researchers have created new electronic papers with flashing lights and moving parts.

So, what’s this invention called? The Paper Generator! What’s really nifty about it is that it doesn’t even need bulky batteries to power its bulbs. Instead, it uses simple hand motions like tapping, rubbing, and sliding to generate electricity! That seems kind of ridiculous, because when I tap my desk during tests in school, there’s no crazy sparks of energy shooting from my fingertips. Why should I expect it to happen when I do the same to the Paper Generator?

The secret lies in the paper itself, which is sandwiched between polyester (a chain of chemicals) covered in metal, and a special sheet of material known as Teflon. When Teflon rubs against the ordinary paper, it generates enough electricity to power lights, sounds, and animations embedded onto the sheet!

You know what the best part about the Paper Generator is? It’s super cheap, really easy to make, and can even be printed out! “There’s nothing here that I can’t build by hand in five minutes,” said Mustafa Karagozler, from Disney Research. “That’s the future of this technology.” So, just what exactly can be created with this paper? It can be used to make books with bright, flashing colors, moving parts, sweet sound effects, and interactive games for kids and adults to enjoy together.

Images courtesy of Disney Research.