Flexible form technology lets users shape their devices to fit momentary needs.
A traditional Rubik’s Cube might drive you into a fits of frustration, but if that design principle was applied to cell phones in order to make them multi-functional, it might be more appealing. Created by researchers at Hasselt University iMinds in Belgium, a device called “Paddle” consists of eight square tiles that can be manipulated into a variety of shapes and sizes depending on what you need to use it for.
“At the moment our Paddle prototype supports around 15 different shapes but this number increases every day as we are including more and more shapes of the original Rubik’s Magic puzzle,” says Raf Ramakers, a PhD Student in Human Computer Interaction at the University, in an interview with FastCoDesign.
You can fold the phone into various forms such as a tablet, cell phone, arm band, bracelet, game controller, and any other shape that feels intuitive. That’s a big part of the device’s appeal, to be able to use it without learning specific gestures, and instead just leaf through an article like a book, or roll a bracelet to change frames.
The current prototype uses an optical tracking system with a projector for visual output, which means it isn’t very portable. The team hopes that advances in technology over the next 5-10 years will allow all of the current features to be fully-integrated into future models.
As pointed out by EP, people using the device in “book” form were much better at recalling the structure as well as content of the piece they read after they leafed through the Paddle, especially when compared to articles read on a more traditional touch device. This could make it easier to learn through a fusion of tactile and digital experiences, all available within one extremely compact interface.
Images: Raf Ramakers