Researchers at Queen's University's Human Media Lab have developed a new smartphone -- called MorePhone -- which can morph its shape to give users a silent yet visual cue of an incoming phone call, text message or email.
"This is another step in the direction of radically new interaction techniques afforded by smartphones based on thin film, flexible display technologies" says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), director of the Human Media Lab at Queen's University who developed the flexible PaperPhone and PaperTab.
"Users are familiar with hearing their phone ring or feeling it vibrate in silent mode. 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."
MorePhone is not a traditional smartphone. It is made of a thin, flexible electrophoretic display manufactured by Plastic Logic -- a British company and a world leader in plastic electronics. Sandwiched beneath the display are a number of shape memory alloy wires that contract when the phone notifies the user. This allows the phone to either curl either its entire body, or up to three individual corners. Each corner can be tailored to convey a particular message. For example, users can set the top right corner of the MorePhone to bend when receiving a text message, and the bottom right corner when receiving an email. Corners can also repeatedly bend up and down to convey messages of greater urgency.
Dr. Vertegaal thinks bendable, flexible cell phones are the future and MorePhones could be in the hands of consumers within five to 10 years. Queen's researchers will unveil the prototype at the ACM CHI 2013 (Computer-Human Interaction) in Paris on April 29th. The annual conference is the world's premier conference on all aspects of human-computer interaction.
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