Human Media Lab Unveils Foldable Smartphone Technology

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The Human Media Lab is unveiling its revolutionary foldable smartphone technology “Paperfold” in Toronto today at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and student Antonio Gomes will be demonstrating the smartphone’s ability to fold open up to three flexible displays that allows extra screen space when needed. The three detachable electrophoretic displays allow the compact phone to be connected into a variety of arrangements that can mimic both a notebook computer format or a foldout map.

In a news release, Dr. Vertegaal – a professor in the School of Computing and Director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s – explained that each display screen can act independently or as part of a larger display. He went on to say that this “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.”

PaperFold can automatically recognize its shape and produce preconfigured changes to each display’s graphics. A feature that would no doubt be customizable for end users and allow personalized display configurations based on how the phone was manipulated.

The example shown in the paperfold demo video, folding the unit into its ultra notebook form factor will open up a keyboard on the bottom screen. The user then types in a New York City address into Google Maps that is shown on the upper screen.

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When the three displays are flattened out, the Google Map page appears stitched together across all of the screens and folding it again into a ‘convex globe’ changes the displays to show the location in Google Earth or Streetview.

According to the release and demonstrated in the video (embedded below), folding PaperFold into the ‘shape of a 3D building on the map’ will detect a Google 3D SketchUp model of the building and turn the device into an architectural model that can be 3D printed’.

“The development of electronic paper computers that can adopt similar qualities to paper has been an enduring research goal for our team,” says Dr. Vertegaal. “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.”

The Human Media Lab (HML) at Queen’s University is one of Canada’s premier Human-Computer Interaction laboratories. Inventions include eye tracking sensors, Smart Pause, PaperPhone – the world’s first flexible phone, and PaperTab – the world’s first flexible paper computer.

Checked out the HML website for more information about the Human Media Lab.

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