The PaperFold could be the folding, modular, multi-screen future of smartphones

This amazing prototype smartphone could give us a glimpse of what shape our future mobile devices will take. It’s called the PaperFold, and it has been developed by a team from the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada. It takes the concept of a modular phone well beyond what we’re seeing from Google with Project Ara, adding the option to change your single-screen phone into a double or even triple-screen tablet, and back again. Like this, the PaperFold makes it possible to alter the shape and available screen real estate of your device depending on your needs.

Although it’s quite hard to explain how it works, once you see it in action, the PaperFold makes sense. The video below shows a great example. If you’re viewing a photo gallery on a single screen, by magnetically attaching a second display each image automatically appears full screen on it. A page-turning gesture is used to advance through the pictures. Finally, a third screen is attached which adds editing tools and more information.

The three screens are aware of when they’re connected to each other, and what apps are running, making the PaperFold very versatile. Arrange the screens so the PaperFold looks like a small laptop computer, and a full screen keyboard appears on the bottom section. The device is also shown making the most of Google Maps, from a widescreen, single map view across all the screens, to folding it up to see Street View, and even gathering data to produce a 3D printed model building.

PaperFold uses electronic paper touchscreens, just like a Kindle. This means they won’t consume much energy, are light and flexible, and will withstand some harsh treatment. It also means the PaperFold won’t display color images, but as flexible screen technology moves on, this could change.

There’s no information on when, or if, the PaperFold will move beyond the prototype stage, but it’s a fascinating glimpse of what the future of smartphone development could hold.

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