A team from the Human Media Lab at Canada’s Queen’s University has just created a smartphone that has multiple displays which can be rearranged and folded. The device which is called the PaperFold smartphone is a working prototype that has three separate e-ink displays that can be combined into different shapes as the situation requires. Unlike traditional smartphones where users have to scroll to view more content, PaperFold is designed to act more like paper which can be folded and detached to view other parts of a document.
According to Dr. Roel Vertegaal, a Queen’s professor and Director of the Human Media Lab, “The development of electronic paper computers that can adopt similar qualities to paper has been an enduring research goal for our team. Books use folding as both a navigational and space saving technique, and paper maps have malleable display sizes. The PaperFold smartphone adopts folding techniques that makes paper so versatile, and employs them to change views or functionality of a smartphone, as well as alter its screen real estate in a flexible manner. PaperFold demonstrates how form could equal function in malleable mobile devices.”
PaperFold takes its inspiration from paper. Right now when we access content on mobile devices we usually scroll or zoom to view more content. This device acts more like paper as it can be folded and combined into different configurations.
The secret as to how this concept works lies in its magnetic hinges. The smartphone can detect where and when the displays have been or removed and automatically adjusts the display accordingly. One practical use of this feature is that it can be used in a notebook configuration. The top display is used to view content while the bottom display can serve as a virtual keyboard. Things get interesting when it is used to access Google Maps. When the three displays are folded flat it can display a map of an area just like a traditional map. When the displays are folded it will automatically switch to Google Earth view able to display 3D content.
Dr. Vertegaal further said that “In PaperFold, each display tile can act independently or as part of a single system. It allows multiple device form factors, providing support for mobile tasks that require large screen real estate or keyboards on demand, while retaining an ultra-compact, ultra-thin and lightweight form factor.”
This isn’t the first project of the team over at the Human Media Lab as they have also worked on the Paperphone which is a fully functional flexible smartphone, PaperTab which is a flexible tablet, and the Morephone which curls when an incoming call is received.