World’s first shapeshifting mobile phone unveiled

The concept aims to offer a better user experience according to the user's needs. It flexes into the desired shape, such as an ATM keypad or a gaming console, through the use of shape memory alloys.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor on

A team led by India-born technologist Sriram Subramanian has unveiled a concept for what will be the world's first shapeshifting mobile phones, called Morphees.

The handset adapts a new shape on its own according to the context of the user--such as an ATM keypad or a gaming console--in order to improve the user's experience, noted a report Tuesday by India Today.

"We are introducing the term 'shape resolution', which adds to the existing definitions of screen and touch resolution," Subramanian, professor of computer science at the University of Bristol, said at a conference on humancomputer interface in Paris on Monday. His team had also published a paper, "Morphees: Toward High "Shape Resolution" in Self Actuated Flexible Mobile Devices".

Morphees were developed using advanced shape changing materials such as dielectric electro active polymers and shape memory alloys. Shape memory alloys have the ability to return to a predetermined shape on cue such as an electrical impulse.

morphees prototypes
Morphees make use of shape memory alloys. (credit: www.anneroudaut.fr)

They are thin and flexible, with no physical switches and dials that can prevent shape deformations. There are several layers of flexible components--computation circuits, display and touch sensor and a shape-shifting layer. The shape-shifting layer morphs, thus affecting the entire assembly.

While this seems to be something from the Terminator movie series, it's not science fiction for the light-hearted. The practical purposes while limited to the hardware limitations, could potentially be endless. Having the capability to morph a mobile device into another for a completely different function is clearly one step ahead and above than the current audio, video, camera, and entertainment bundling with mobile phones.

It's safe to assume that a marketable version is still years away for consumers to purchase, thus giving time for devices and or terminals to be compatible with a Morphees-developed device. On the same token, do consumers really want additional features in the mobile phone, such as the capability to morph into a gaming console and for example, while playing a game, have the ability to either make or receive calls or text messages? I would assume this would interfere with the actual game playing itself, but that's just one example.

Perhaps in the future, more desirable transformations can be incorporated into Morphees, along with consumer awareness, will help this potentially new breed of mobile phones sell and succeed. 

As previously covered, already bendable mobile phones are being developed. Clearly, an element of the bendable phone has been incorporated into Morphees. Already, these are two working prototypes and combined, they could do wonders.


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