Books with photos that move – Harry Potter-style – may soon be with us. But before that, get ready for boxes of cereal that extol their own virtues via a built-in video display and chocolate bars that flash and flare to attract your attention.

Siemens has announced a new type of color display screen so thin and flexible it can be printed onto paper or foil, and so cheap it can be used on throwaway packaging.

A spokesman for the company, Dr Norbert Aschenbrenner, said the screens would be able to do everything a conventional TV could, albeit with slightly lower quality.

The first examples would be on the market by 2007, Dr Aschenbrenner said.

The technology uses “electrochromic substances … that change their colour when an electrical voltage shifts charges in their molecules” and the German technology company suggested uses could include medicines displaying instructions in various languages.

“It is also conceivable that small computer games will be on packages or that equipment boxes will display animations that give users step-by-step operating instructions.”

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However, it is marketers who have shown the most interest.

Tom Harris, CEO of the industry association Point of Purchase Advertising Australia, said if such screens delivered everything promised it would be “absolutely brilliant”. “The major brands are always looking for a competitive edge.

“How cheap is cheap going to be is the interesting thing, and there are a few other questions, such as does the packaging keep moving when you get home?”

Dr Aschenbrenner said glossy magazines could incorporate the flexible screens in advertisements, with the cost being from about $53 a square metre. Newspaper supplements (on a slightly heavier stock than normal newsprint) could follow.

How will such a screen get its power? From batteries that are also printed onto the paper, Siemens said.

More here.