Remember when you were a kid and you zapped your little brother with static electricity by rubbing your feet on the carpet? Disney Research innovators used that same concept to create interactive books, posters and cards that can light up, move, and generate noise when they're rubbed, tapped or touched with your bare hands.
By creating a "paper generator" fashioned out of paper, silver-coated polyester, and a thin sheet of Teflon (PTFE), users are able to light up LED bulbs, create movement of an attached object, or build up a charge to cause noise to be emitted. E Ink technology, which is used in e-readers like the Kindle, can also be activated with paper generators, as they use a tiny amount of energy.
The application of human motion creates a semi-permanent charge on the surface of the Teflon sheet when rubbed against paper and polyester, building up electricity and acting as an electric field source. The electricity created definitely wouldn't be powerful enough to keep the lights on in your house, but would be useful for interactive greeting cards or books for young children. Plus, it forces them to work out, which is always a good thing.
Previously, in order to create even a simple electric generator, moderately expensive materials like batteries, magnets and wires had to be used. The cost of a paper generator is a fraction of the traditional science-fair setup since it uses common and low-cost materials that can be built in less than five minutes, making it possible for anyone to do.