Researchers have created prototype self-actuated flexible mobile devices that can change shape on-demand (CREDIT: Bristol Interaction and Graphics)

Shape-changing mobile devices to be unveiled

Prototype mobile devices that can change shape on-demand will be unveiled today by researchers.

A research paper, to be presented at the ACM CHI 2013 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris today, will introduce the term “shape resolution” and its ten features, to describe the resolution of an interactive device: in addition to display and touch resolution.

Dr Anne Roudaut and Professor Sriram Subramanian, from the University of Bristol's Department of Computer Science, have created prototype self-actuated flexible mobile devices that can change shape on-demand to better fit the many services they are likely to support.

The team believe their concept, which they have named Morphees, will herald a new generation of mobile devices allowing users to download applications that embed a dedicated form factor.

Dr Roudaut said: "The interesting thing about our work is that we are a step towards enabling our mobile devices to change shape on-demand. Imagine downloading a game application on the app-store and that the mobile phone would shape-shift into a console-like shape in order to help the device to be grasped properly.

“The device could also transform into a sphere to serve as a stress ball, or bend itself to hide the screen when a password is being typed so passers-by can't see private information."

The team are hoping their work will lay down the foundation for creating high shape resolution devices of the future.

The researchers have used “shape resolution” to compare the resolution of six prototypes the team have built using the latest technologies in shape changing material, such as shape memory alloy and electro active polymer.

By comparing the shape resolution of their prototypes, the researchers have created insights to help designers towards creating high shape resolution Morphees.

In the future the team hope to build higher shape resolution Morphees by investigating the flexibility of materials. They are also interested in exploring other kinds of deformations that the prototypes did not explore, such as porosity and stretchability.

A video of Morphees is available here.

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