The concept is called shape resolution, and a research team led by Anne Roudaut and Sriram Subramanian have added 10 of these new features to its six flexible prototypes. The devices are given their extraordinary fungibility by virtue of advanced shape-changing materials, such as memory alloy and electro active polymer.
In the future, users will download apps to their devices and embed a dedicated form factor — like a stress ball app, for instance, which would cause the device to collapse in on itself. Other apps could give the device a console-like shape.
The researchers will be making their formal presentation this week: Morphees: Toward high "shape resolution" in self-actuated flexible mobile devices, Anne Roudaut, Abhijit Karnik, Sriram Subramanian, ACM CHI 2013, Saturday 27 April to Thursday 2 May 2013, Paris, France.