This Smartphone Gets the Bends When You Get a Call (video)

1Researchers at the Human Media Lab at Queens University have been spending the past several years looking at new ways that we might interact with next-generation displays.

I have long been a fan of the HML, so I was thrilled to learn earlier this week that they have revealed a new concept for a radical smartphone design. It's called the Morephone, and it turns the idea of smartphones notifications on its head.

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 The Morephone is not your average smartphone. Instead of an LCD or OLED screen it uses a thin, flexible EPD screen manufactured by Plastic Logic. This is a screen similar to the ones used by the HML in past projects like the the Papertab (here, here) and the Paperphone, only the Morephone uses the flexible screen as a signal instead of an input method. This concept design uses actuators to bend part of the screen so it acts as a visual signal for incoming notifications.

For example, the unit that is being used for demos is set to fold one corner up when there's an incoming text message. It can also bend the entire screen when there's an incoming call:

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According to Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab, the idea embodied the Morephone was inspired by the common problem of missed notifications. "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," he said. "With MorePhone, they can leave their smartphone on the table and observe visual shape changes when someone is trying to contact them."

That's an interesting idea, but it might only substitute one type of missed notification for another. At the moment it's possible for smartphone users to miss the buzz of a notification because the phone isn't in their hand. With the Morephone, the user might instead miss seeing the screen fold in half because the Morephone isn't in view.

That's why I'm not sure that this really solves any problems. Even though it does look cool in practice, I bet that it's more likely that we'll see a notifications be integrated into heads up displays like Google Glass, or some other piece of gadgetry that will be permanently attached (watch, ring, pendant). That's a natural progression from the current support for Bluetooth headsets, don't you think?

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About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on This Smartphone Gets the Bends When You Get a Call (video)

  1. Is that a Morephone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me…or someone is calling you

  2. Or a wristwatch, ring, or pendant.
    Things that people wear full-time.
    There’s long been talk of PAN’s (Personal Area Networks) and now that the technology to do them it makes more sense to distribute functions to accessories that try to reengineer mature products.
    A notification ring, for example, would vibrate when a message is coming to the phone and the phone is beyond a certain range. The user could then touch it in one spot to trigger a recorded message (“I’m away from the phone, wait til I get to it.”) or just ignore.
    A fancy model might also glow a different color for different classes of contacts or not at all for unregistered numbers.
    The connection would be mostly very low bandwidth (just a quick pulse) so the ring.pendant/pen/whatever battery could last a very long time.
    (shrug)
    Lots of possibilities that don’t need Mighty Morphing Power Phones.

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Morephone, un Smartphone que curva su pantalla al recibir una llamada
  2. Queen's University Researchers Debut Latest in Line of Flexible Mobile Devices That Have Never Left the Lab | The Digital Reader

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