Flexible plastic camera sensor headed to smartphones, wearables and more

Bendable cameras and sensors that can flex around corners could be on the horizon, with the first flexible image sensor built on plastic being developed by Plastic Logic and ISORG. The 40 x 40 mm sensor uses a flexible, transmissive backplane created by Plastic Logic, on top of which ISORG layers an organic photodetector material turning it into a resilient, lightweight camera module. It's not quite ready to replace the camera in your smartphone, however.

That's because, right now, the resolution captured is just 94 x 95 pixels. The pixels themselves are 175um in size, with 200um spacing; however, ISORG is confident that there are still plenty of applications for a large area image sensor.

Those could include roles in the medical, industrial, and security control industries, it's suggested. For instance, the flexible sensor could scan fingerprints for biometric security, be used for body-conformed wearable diagnostics and health sensors, or even as scanning surfaces, covering the full extent of a table, for instance, and mapping out whatever objects are placed on top.

For consumers, meanwhile, there's the possibility of new control interfaces, using the flexible image sensor as a moldable input surface for smartphones, tablets, or printers. For instance, a single panel of ISORG sensor material could be wrapped around the sides and back of a smartphone casing, and used to track taps and gestures with multiple fingertips across it.

Plastic Logic's technology began as a way to create entirely plastic-based ereader screens, with the company planning to take on the Kindle and other ebook platforms with its own "unbreakable" device. However, while the display technology worked, the ereader industry itself proved too cut-throat, and Plastic Logic segued into licensing out its plastic-transistor technology.

That's expected to show up in flexible color e-paper, low-cost tablet-style companion devices for smartphones, and wrist-conforming smartwatches. Exactly when ISORG might commercialize the bendable image sensor on plastic is unclear.