MorePhone: A Phone That Bends When It Gets A Call
April 29, 2013

MorePhone: A Phone That Bends When It Gets A Call

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Have you ever found yourself missing a phone call or text message because your phone was on silent or because the ringer was turned down too low? Some researchers from the Queen´s University Human Media Lab in Canada are working to make sure you never miss a notification again with a phone that bends when a call or message comes through. They´re calling it the “MorePhone” and hope a visual cue (in addition to the bright and blinking screen) will be the perfect solution to accidental missed calls.

“This is another step in the direction of radically new interaction techniques afforded by smartphones based on thin film, flexible display technologies,” explains Dr. Roel Vertegaal with the Human Media Lab and Queen´s University School of Computing.

“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.”

Dr. Vertegaal and team will be showing off the MorePhone this week at the Computer-Human Interface Conference (CHI) in Paris, France.

In a video on the University´s website, the team show off how the MorePhone could work. A young woman is seen sitting at a computer and bobbing her head to music as a smartphone sits nearby on the desk. In another scene, the same woman is sitting at the same desk with the MorePhone prototype (tied down with a length of wires) near by. The MorePhone receives a call and slowly begins to curl upward. The girl notices this movement, removes her headphones and picks up the MorePhone.

[ Watch the Video: MorePhone: A Shape Changing Smartphone that Deforms Upon a Call ]

The prototype uses a monochromatic, flexible e-ink display with special memory wires to bend the device. As shown in the video, the entire device curls up when a phone call is received. When a text message comes through, only one corner of the phone is curled, letting the user know which kind of notification is waiting for them simply by looking at the way the device is bent.

The team claims these different positions can be customized as well to accommodate any need the user may have. For instance, if an urgent email is received, the MorePhone could begin flapping its corners to convey the importance of the message.

This isn´t the first prototype Dr. Vertegaal has developed which shows off the potential of flexible displays. In 2011, he introduced the world to the PaperPhone, a display that utilized bendable gestures to navigate the phone. Instead of tapping the app you want to open, users bend the phone in a certain way to open the app.

Dr. Vertegaal believes these kind of thin and bendable displays are the future of mobile devices, and he isn´t alone.

Companies like Corning and Samsung have shown off their own version of flexible glass and displays recently, though no plans have been announced of an actual product using these displays.

Another group of researchers will also be showing off their own morphing smartphone prototypes today at the CHI conference.

Dr. Anne Roudaut and Professor Sriram Subramanian from the University of Bristol´s Department of Computer Science will introduce six prototype devices that can change their shape, depending on how they´re being used.

According to Dr. Vertegaal, the MorePhone and phones like it could arrive to market in five to ten years.