Morphee prototype mobile devices are real-life transformers, changing shape to best suit your needs

by: Andrew GrushApril 29, 2013


Technology certainly doesn’t hold still. Not long ago, a computer could easily take up an entire room, now it can fit in your pocket. Touchscreens were once quite primitive, now most of us rely on them daily. What’s the next step when it comes to computers, tablets and even mobile tech in general? Wearable computing is certainly a future path, as is the possibility of flexible, bendable tablets and smartphones.

We’re not just talking about flexible display technology from companies like LG and Samsung. Imagine a device that transforms its shape based on your needs. Launch a game, the back of the phone or tablet bends to form a comfortable controller grip. If you are feeling stressed out, your phone could even morph into a stress ball.

While this kind of technology might sound a little far-fetched, that’s exactly what Anne Roudaut – a University of Bristol computer scientist – is working on, with some help from other colleagues from United Kingdom and Germany. The team calls these types of devices “morphees”.

Odd name aside, morphees go behind the theoretical, and currently exist in the form of six different prototypes.

Each prototype is made using various materials including wood, dielectric electroactive polymers and smart alloys. Right now, these prototypes rely on wires, springs and actuators to change form, but the long-term goal is to have the flexible material, sensors and actuators merge. In their current form they are certainly a bit primitive looking, but you can start to imagine the future possibilities.

Combining morphees with future flexible display technology could easily allow smartwatches that bend back and forth between phone and watch, or even phones that fold down even smaller when in your pocket.

Of course it takes more than just a flexible case and screen to make such shapeshifting devices successful, the batteries and other components must find ways to flex as well. The potential is there, now we just have to find a way around the hurdles.

What do you think, would you like to see a fully flexible Android device in the not-too-distant future or do you find the idea a bit impractical?

  • Ugo Marceau

    I’m not seeing any use to this. Okay maybe the “bending to put around your wrist” might be useful, other than that no. Who wants to unfold a device to answer a text ? I already find that typing in a PIN ou swiping a pattern is too long to unlock a device so I have no security option on my phone. A folding screen to hind your bank password ? Just hold your phone up and closer to you. The phone folds to become a game pad ? Either there’s gonna be one hell of a bezel or you’re losing screen estate while playing. There’s probably lot’s of interesting applications to this technology I’m not thinking about. But for now, meh. Not interested.

  • One hell of a tech if it makes its way in the future and I am sure it will.