Researchers Unveil Phone That Morphs Like a Rubix Cube

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Device interactivity isn't just about touchscreens anymore. You can order pizza with a few taps of an app, and in the case of a prototype phone announced today by British and American researchers, you could then transform your phone into a console for a quick gaming session while you wait for the delivery guy.

That's right, a team made up of researchers from Purdue and three English universities may have just developed the world's first Rubix Cube smartphone. Dubbed "Cubimorph," the device has OLED touchscreens on each of its six faces and uses a hinge-mounted turntable mechanism to self-reconfigure in the user's hand.

Like a Rubix Cube, its faces are permanently connected so you can't lose one. The reconfiguration process is automatic thanks to the motorized turntables, which receive instructions from a computer running algorithms to determine how best to configure the faces based on what the user wants to do.

The idea behind the morphable prototype is to create what its designers call "programmable matter." The concept is similar to 3D printing, except instead of printing what you need, you shape your existing device into a form factor that can accomplish the task.

Actually selling the Cubimorph is the stuff of geeky dreams at the moment, but its creators think there will be a broader demand for programmable matter in the future.

"Cubimorph is the first step towards a real modular interactive device," Bristol University Lecturer Anne Roudaut said in a statement. "Much work still needs to be achieved to put such devices in the end-user hands but we hope our work will create discussion between the human computer interaction and robotics communities that could be of benefit to one another."

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