Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Purdue, Lancaster and Sussex have published the design of a smartphone made out of six-sided building blocks that act as screens, named Cubimorph.

Each cube is linked to the ones next to it and it is able to be morphed into different shapes and configurations, gaining much more malleability than a classic Rubik’s cube, a device the Cubimorph is often compared to.

The Cubimorph can be shaped from a game controller to a long and cumbersome line, with only a small portion being used as a display. Credit: Engadget

Morphing smartphone

Cubimorph is a project mainly carried out by the Bristol Interaction Group (BIG), which is a division of the University’s Department of Computer Science. Although the Cubimorph is still a concept design, it is regarded as an important step towards developing a completely malleable interactive smart device.

There are still many doubts concerning the device, as to users wonder how the development team will fit the battery, the processing hardware and charging ports into the device. There is also the issue of the lines between cubes, that may become distracting as they split the display into several small segments.

Many of these concerns will be clarified by the lead developer Dr. Anne Roudaut. The Cubimorph is to be officially presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation of 2016 to be held in Stockholm from May 16 to the 21. In the conference, the team will reveal the Cubimorphs’ mechanical abilities and the algorithms for its different configurations.

Dr. Roudaut argued that although Cubimorph is something to behold as an advance, there is still much work to do in order to put a similar device into the hands of consumers. News about Cubimorph’s launch have surfaced just as Google’s Project Ara, a similar device, was announced to be delayed.

In this video we can see some of Cubimorphs functions, as the team asserts that the device is able to keep itself together and to be reconfigured without having to resort to a large empty space. Each cube is attached to a smart turntable that allows the cube to change its position in more than just one way, allowing for countless transformations.

As Cubimorph changes shape, it is able to select both the fastest and the most comfortable paths to reach a different configuration. It will also avoid hurting the user’s fingers and creating unwanted configurations that are either inefficient or uncomfortable in terms of space.

Source: University of Bristol