Flexible Phone Alters Shape for Different Callers

Dennis Faas's picture

A team of researchers has developed a smartphone capable of folding and contorting when receiving a phone call, text message, email, or social media post.

The device, which is being developed by researchers at Canada's Queen's University, is called 'MorePhone' and features a flexible plastic exterior. Internally, shape-memory alloy wires contract and bend based on electronic signals and are able to reform to the original shape of the device on command.

Message and Caller-Specific Curls

The technology also can be programmed to alter the phone in a way that suits the owner.

In other words, specific message types (text messages, social media posts) can have their own unique phone movement. Even designated callers can have their own configuration; for example, every time Frank calls, the phone curls the right corner only.

More urgent calls can be assigned full-body curls.

Calls can also be ignored simply by tapping the curled area.

The idea behind MorePhone: people want a phone that can communicate with them without making a noise. Even a smartphone's 'vibrate' mode tends to make a noise that can distract.

According to Queen's researcher Roel Vertegaal, "One of the problems with current silent forms of notification is that users often miss notifications when not holding their phone. With MorePhone, they can leave their smartphone on the table and observe visual shape changes when someone is trying to contact them." (Source: huffingtonpost.com)

Thin and Flexible: Future Direction of Smartphones

The MorePhone prototype was first unveiled at the 2013 Human Factors in Computing Systems conference in Paris, France.

Earlier this year, Queen's researchers featured a device called PaperTab that was, in essence, a paper-thin flexible computer tablet. (Source: canoe.ca)

Vertegaal believes that designs like the MorePhone and PaperTab will be available for public purchase in the next three to five years. He went on to estimate that many smartphones will have the ability to change shape on their own within five to ten years, "after all of this gesture stuff dies down."

Vertegaal says his team intends to create a prototype with the potential to fold into a three-dimensional object.

A video of the MorePhone in action can be seen by clicking here.

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