I want a shape-shifting phone

Published: April 29, 2013

There have been some pretty exciting phone prototypes unveiled in the last year or so. This isn't a new practice, of course. We've seen prototypes every year. Some of them are great, while others aren't. Cool ideas are formulated through prototypes. Its' how we eventually get the real devices we use every day. So while something may seem outlandish to start, especially in a rough concept video, there's always a chance (even remotely) that it becomes something we use every day sometime down the road.

That's why when we see transparent phones, or devices that have bendable displays, it's easy to get excited about the future. That's something really new, and new is never a bad thing. (Unless it doesn't work correctly. Then it's terrible.) But, many people are willing to take that risk just to have that new thing. We call them early adopters.

It's more than that in some of these cases, though. We have all heard more times than we can count that we're in a bit of a hardware plateau. Sure, we've got faster-than-ever processors, more RAM than we can shake a stick at, and displays that offer up ridiculous(ly nice) resolutions, but we may have gotten to this point a bit too quickly for our own good. So, we're on a plateau.

That's where the future comes to our rescue!

That's the plan, anyway. Eventually.

Earlier today, Matt Peckham from TIME's Techland posted an article commenting on a video about what developers, researchers and scientists are calling "Morphees." As you can probably guess from their name, these things are able to "morph" in certain ways. While those behind this project have plenty of ideas, this first video is all about what it would be like to have personal devices, like our phones, or our phone accessories, *shape-shift* into whatever we need at the moment.

The Morphees project is being developed in conjunction from researchers at University of Bristol, U.K., and the German Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Saarbrucken, Germany. Their ultimate goal with this project? To create a new category like screen resolution. They are trying to create "shape resolution."

In the video, which you can see here in total, has plenty of different scenarios that you may want a device, or accessory, that can change shapes depending on your surroundings. The first one, which is one of my favorites, shows a little "calculator" application, tied to your bank account, where the display actually shifts up and towards the user, to prevent any on-lookers from seeing the display. If you notice in the video, the device actually reacts to someone walking behind the device, and  tilts away from potentially unsafe onlookers.

Another cool idea, is the "game grip," which looks like an accessory that would connect to either end of your device, like your iPhone 5, and shift to your needs as you needed it. Playing a game in landscape mode, for example, is more comfortable if you have two extended pieces that curve down, towards the back of the phone, to hold onto, while your thumbs interact with the touchscreen display.

I've articulated in the past that I may have lost interest in transparent phones, but I can say that I'm completely in love with the idea of Morphees, and the potential therein. To have your phone, or other portable device for that matter, react to your surroundings accordingly, or even at your own prompts, is a pretty cool idea.

Is it right around the corner? No. But that's not really the point. Depending on how much of a focus this gets going down the line, and the results that the researchers are able to come up with that can work with other pieces of functioning technology in our mobile devices, these ideas could very well make it into devices in the future. That, all by itself, is pretty dang exciting.

Of course, as with any new piece of technology, there has to be plenty of people willing to accept it. Just like with Google's upcoming Glass, we have to be ready for this technology before it can be widely adopted.

So what do you think of the idea of a device that can shape shift to what you want, when you want it? Is it something that you could get behind? Or do you think you'd prefer other futuristic technologies, like foldable displays? Let me know!

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