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Intel Envisions Shape-Shifting Smartphones

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the optimus-phone dept.

Cellphones 79

An anonymous reader writes "It's not sci-fi, but rather advanced robotics research which is leading Intel to envision shape-shifting smartphones. 'Imagine what you would do with this material,' says Jason Campbell, a senior researcher at Intel's Pittsburgh Lab who's working in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. 'If you want to carry the device, you'd make it as small as possible by making it pack itself as densely as possible. When you go to surf the Web, you're going to make it big.' The material being studied is transparent silicon-dioxide hemispheres, which can roll around each other under electrical control to create different shapes. The lab has built 6-inch long actuators, which it's working to reduce to 1-mm tube-sized prototypes. When will we see a shape-shifting phone? 'In terms of me being able to buy it, that's a difficult forecasting problem, because I have to guess about manufacturing costs,' Campbell said. 'I won't do that. But we hope the science will be proved out in three to five years.'"

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ringtone (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120689)

Be sure to set your ringtone to that Transformers sound.

Re:ringtone (1)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120801)

In this case they're Transphoners.

Re:ringtone (1)

Forge (2456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120951)

As long as it's not a Nokia. For those who mis the joke, watch Transformers again. That little Nokia really went Berserk when it transformed.

Re:ringtone (3, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121395)

I think it's better to risk someone not getting it (and then get a second run "WHOOSH" joke out of it) than to non-comically explain a joke immediately after telling it . . .

Re:ringtone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121623)

Whoosh!

Oh wait!

Re:ringtone (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121805)

Though it was handy for those people like myself who have never seen the Transformers movie, and never will.

Re:ringtone (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122113)

I thought it was handy for those people like myself who never understood that "whoosh" joke.

Re:ringtone (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27129289)

I thought WHOOOSH was the noise you heard when you put a Nokia in a microwave oven [youtube.com] ?

zOMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27122129)

Imagine this as a beowolf cluster...!

Re:ringtone (1)

KingOfGod (884633) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122199)

I, for one, welcome our new Dominion overlords.

Ooops! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120715)

Hope it has keylocking features... I wouldn't like to have to explain a sudden "bulge" in my pants...

On the other hand "is that an email, or are you just happy to see me?"

Re:Ooops! (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124715)

Either that or you can finally have an excuse for a non-convenient boner. It's my PHONE! Really!

If they're smart phones ... (1)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120741)

... why can't they get it to change shape based on how you're using it?

Re:If they're smart phones ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120915)

... why can't they get it to change shape based on how you're using it?

Odo, is that you?

Re:If they're smart phones ... (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121089)

You didn't watch the vid .... NM. I almost forgot where I was f.or a moment.

In the video, Jason Campbell said they hope to have it changed based on application. I'd presume that would indicate the shape is dictated by what program you're using or, probably at first, by mode buttons of some sort.

Re:If they're smart phones ... (1)

msoori (614781) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122639)

Hmmm... how would it know I intend to use it as a web browser or a phone when I pull it out of my pocket in the compacted form? I guess it would have to be able to read the mind too.

Re:If they're smart phones ... (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 5 years ago | (#27123933)

You'd push the phone button and it would become a phone. You'd push the browser button and it would become a web browser.

Re:If they're smart phones ... (1)

ElBorba (221626) | more than 5 years ago | (#27127751)

He's not a developer, he doesn't even work on cell phones. When he said "application" he's thinking of "cell phones" as an application for the material they're designing. I, on the other hand, am thinking of "shape-shifting robotic beer can" as an application.

Don't forget where you are...

...Oy, I see your point.

The Delta Between Conceiving & Marketing (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120747)

'I won't do that. But we hope the science will be proved out in three to five years.'

I think that's an overly optimistic figure and I wish he would have commented on the date it would hit shelves as it's likely many decades into the future.

I'm probably captain obvious for saying this but as the complexity of our inventions reaches new highs (and requires more teams of people than just inventor-geniuses) it may increase the amount of time between inventing and actually marketing the product.

You may be able to argue that this has always been a long time with people like Charles Babbage or Nikola Tesla but I suspect it's going to get to the point where a lab researcher invents a way of doing something that does not hit everyday usage until well after his/her death. The ability to cheaply fabricate a device may be a bigger feat than development of the device. I seem to recall from some book (Three Cups of Tea?) that a man who worked on fabrication of computer chips & boards thought of a novel way to accomplish the task when he was in his shower and noticed how water ran off his skin. He somehow applied this to making computer boards more cheaply and effectively ... and subsequently became very very rich (patents). A utilitarian might argue that this is the way it should be.

Re:The Delta Between Conceiving & Marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121099)

That all holds true except that we are constantly inventing technology which helps us invent technology. In other words, technology that reduces the complexity from the inventor's point of view. Consider what AI or something would do. Developments like that could keep the process going like is has in times past when things were "simpler."

Re:The Delta Between Conceiving & Marketing (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121105)

That's arguably already true. For example, the earliest ancestors of the automobile were first created in 1771. But the first production car didn't roll off the line until 1901, and were not mass produced cheaply until 1908.

Intel == manufacturing (1)

ovu (1410823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122227)

A counterpoint is that Intel is a world leader in high tech manufacturing, and routinely builds end-to-end nanoscale high volume manufacturing processes AND factories, constantly. Like every other year. Innovations can be scaled pretty quickly in that environment.

Re:Intel == manufacturing (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27125257)

But all Intel is doing is refining a known process. A new technology like this is more like the initial invention of printing integrated circuits using lithography where all the real world implications were unknown.

long time (2, Interesting)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120767)

Science proved out in 3-5 years. Then how long to get manufacturing to commercial dependability and costs? Once it is on the market, how long until it is more than a high priced novelty? And, the most important question, will battery technology be good enough to power a shape shifting phone for a day or two?

Re:long time (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120825)

will battery technology be good enough

It could well keep up. On the other hand, if the current trend is any indication, we'll be happy to keep it on for a single hour.

My old cell can run for a week - my new one complains after a day.

Re:long time (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121059)

Not if it's a shape-shifting iPhone ....

Re:long time (1)

Bruiser80 (1179083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121989)

...And, the most important question, will battery technology be good enough to power a shape shifting phone for a day or two?

No worries, just have it shape-shift into a hand crank

nokia done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120811)

http://www.mobilemag.com/content/100/340/C7166/
http://www.mobilewhack.com/nokia-shape-shifter-concept-phone/
http://forum2.mobile-review.com/showthread.php?t=78837

Forecast of issues using magnetic fields (1)

Ron Bakker (539650) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120833)

This is surely a fantastic development. Being able to use your cell-phone as an inflatable life-raft.

How vunerable would these materials be against other forms of magnetism in the field. Would it collapse on EMP pulses ?

What can you think of ....

Now, listen carefully, 007... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121193)

... here's your new smart phone for this mission. Now, if you press this button it sends us a GPS signal so that we know exactly where you are. This button activates the camera, this button activates the sound recorder, and this button makes it shapeshift into a particularly nasty little knife. I'm sure you'll find excellent uses for them all.

Re:Now, listen carefully, 007... (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27126567)

...and if you want to actually make a call, this button turns on the GPS system that shows you the direction and distance to the nearest public payphone.

Vibrate (1)

Ragein (901507) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120837)

Now with a stimulating new vibrate function

I've heard that... (1)

placatedmayhem (816456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120839)

... they got this transforming technology from a large robot that was discovered in the arctic circle many years ago.

Re:I've heard that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120961)

I thought they got it from a ship that crashed into a dormant volcano 4 million years ago.

It's not just a phone! (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120855)

Why settle for a boring old phone when you can have a shapeshifter!?!? It's a phone, a music player, a car and a sexbot!

Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120877)

They gonna call it "Odophone"...

Re:Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121773)

For a second, I thought you said "Obamaphone."

Tele-canthropy? (1)

Tz-Auber (984141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27120947)

Will I be able to use this during the full moon? Or will I be filled with unbridled rage as I can't control the shape of the phone?

really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27120975)

When I heard about this new material I was hopeful they would do something amazing with it. I was wrong. But I'm sure the personal massager industry will be pleased.

Re:really... (1)

ChangelingJane (1042436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124637)

Oh, I'm sure the new "personal massagers" will be amazing...

you PFail It (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121011)

sales and so Ron, truth, for all All major marketing

You know where this will eventually go... (3, Interesting)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121025)

Sex toys.

Teledildonics (2, Funny)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27125417)

Teledildonics will always be [ahem] a growth industry...

Mal-2

What is wrong with Technology today... (1)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121029)

If this technology was so world changing, then why would they be talking about it at such an early stage? Because some engineer somewhere realizes that the technology will never work...

What the video clearly demonstrates to me is that Intel is now clearly run by marketing people rather than solid engineering as it once was. Meaning, why would you had one of your "research" people spending time talking about some "pie in the sky" stuff instead of actually doing something?

I'll use that in my flying car.... (1)

bodland (522967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121045)

What you don't have your flying car and wrist video phone?

Re:I'll use that in my flying car.... (1)

DomainDominator (1493131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124349)

Uh no, I use the Enterprise transporter and insignia communicator. Flying cars is so retro.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121109)

did anyone read... transparent silicon dioxide and think... transparent aluminum?

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

Cunk (643486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122769)

No, actually I thought...glass.

Re:Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27123545)

Why would silicon and oxygen make you think of beryl, rubies and saphires? Why not transparent magnesium or transparent carbon or, most appropriately, quartz.

You mean like last year's Nokia Morph concept? (2, Informative)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121129)

Nokia's Morph Concept [nokia.com] was announced in February 2008, over a year ago.

The video on that site, which has illustrated use-case demos (unlike the Intel video) is also available through youtube for those of you who want direct access:

YouTube - Nokia Morph Concept [youtube.com] .
Amazing stuff.

Re:You mean like last year's Nokia Morph concept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121439)

Another Concept Video [youtube.com]

Nokia 888 is shape-shifting w/out nanotech (1)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121767)

There are also (more limited) shape-changing phones in development that don't require nanotech. The Nokia 888 [nokia888.com] (which I just discovered by spending too much time on YouTube after looking up the Morph) is merely a flexible LCD on a permissive backing with an elastic. Probably viable (though not economic) within a few years, unlike nanotech, which might be viable on an extra-large demo scale within 3-5 years (as according to the Intel developer in TFA).

As with my previous post, I'm including a youtube video demo. This one is live-action: YouTube - Nokia 888 Design [youtube.com] .

Quick research shows that the 888 concept is 2+ years old, and NEC may have claimed it was stolen from them. I could not find an official Nokia-owned page talking about the 888. Maybe I can ask my friend who works there...

Re:You mean like last year's Nokia Morph concept? (1)

caladine (1290184) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122225)

I wish I could mod the parent up. This is the first thing that came to mind when I read this article.

Re:You mean like last year's Nokia Morph concept? (1)

Todd Fisher (680265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27123869)

While watching that video I kept thinking that the evil race car drivers from the Ah-ha's "Take on Me" music video were gonna creep up behind the woman and whack her on the head with a wrench and steal her Morph-a-phone.

Warning: Spoilers (1)

ChangelingJane (1042436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124745)

Sensing

Morph enables us to observe our local environment.

Morph can detect specific chemical compounds in the air.

Morph can tell if you're hungry, and make you pancakes in the morning.

Morph knows what kind of porn you like.

Nanoscale Ass

more like Claytronics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27127147)

From the robots that the intel guy had it looks more he was refering to the claytronics project ( http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~claytronics/index.html [cmu.edu] ) and if so it has a much broader use than just cellphones.

transparent silicon-dioxide hemispheres (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121593)

IOW, marbles cut in half. Pyrex cookware is (was?) made from SiO2.

Re: transparent silicon-dioxide hemispheres (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27123619)

Glass and Quartz are SiO2.

The Verizon Decepticon (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121673)

Only takes calls from flunkies and paranoids.

Cellphone? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27121927)

The SciFi Channel has already envisioned the same thing, except in their case it was an SUV that collapses small enough to carry in your purse.

Re:Cellphone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27123111)

The SciFi Channel has already envisioned the same thing, except in their case it was an SUV that collapses small enough to carry in your purse.

That's going to be fun - either watching the wind blow around your 2 pound SUV or trying to carry your 2ton purse.

MoDu exsists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27121959)

http://www.modumobile.com/
It has a simmilar concept of a tiny phone being put into 'sleeves', so that when you ride a bike you can put it into a sleeve that goes over the handle bars, when you want it to play music you put it into a sleeve with speakers, etc...

Seems like a more realistic solution for now...

Gimme better fucking batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27122231)

Who gives a damn.

Wait a second... (1)

nullkill (835502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122461)

Am I the only one concerned about putting something in my ear with the potential to expand to the size of a laptop?

That has bad day written all over it.

Re:Wait a second... (1)

Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124905)

How exactly do you stick your phone into your ear?

What this fuck is this? (1)

Cunk (643486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122699)

Is this some bullshit attempt by Intel at a viral marketing campaign? There is ZERO science behind this and the other "shape-shifting" video they released. Glass spheres manipulated by electric fields? What? That makes no sense at all.

First the guy waves some rather mundane-looking actuators in front of the camera like they're somehow related to this idea. Then he wows the audience by holding up two different blocks of material and making the controversial statement that each has the same amount of material in them. HOLY SHIT!! WHAT!?!

Seriously, what is going on here? Why are they pushing this silly concept so hard?

Sorry, but this stuff angers me because so many people are eating it up like it's real science.

Re:What this fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27123461)

I'm sure you know infinitely more than the researchers at Intel. That's why the Cunk microprocessor is super fast and leading the market...oh wait.

Re:What this fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27124195)

Sounds like good, old fashioned, pure R&D too me. The researcher makes it plain that the 3-5 year goal is to make a functioning 1mm version of the cylinders. So in 3-5 years he'll have some BBs that can be programmed to form a solid or hollow polygon based on a charge being applied to them.

Sounds like somebody read about Nivenesque memory plastic and realised that some of the basic underlying technology could be patented. Might as well get it out of the way. It's a huge leap for them to be talking about using it for anything, but if you could do something like this, now would be the time to start with your patent warchest.

Re:What this fuck is this? (1)

paimin (656338) | more than 5 years ago | (#27126173)

Right, but I have to agree with the GP -- this is an R&D guy talking about creating a sponge that can contract on demand (yeah, that's simplifying a bit). Its neat, but its a LONG way from a cell phone that turns itself into a laptop. The stupid author is conveniently ignoring the difficult part, which is that a cell phone is not a sponge or just a blob of material. It has a processor, a display, etc.

The R&D guy was essentially bringing up the cell phone thing as an example a problem where shape is a limitation. Then the page-hit-whoring author turns it into, "OMFG, Intel will have a shape-shifting cellphone in 3-5 years!"

Yay! (1)

GeorgeMonroy (784609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27122767)

All we need now is a little A.I. and alot of luck.

"Anal skin bleaching", Jesus Christ! :-( (3, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27123079)

> It's not sci-fi, but rather advanced robotics research which is leading Intel
> to envision shape-shifting smartphones

It's embarassing enough to be in a business meeting and have your brother call to the forgotten custom ringtone of "I Like Big Butts".

Now you've gotta worry about the phone turning into a penis or vagina shape?

I've got a shape-shifting phone (1)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124029)

It's a Nokia E90 [wikipedia.org] It goes from having a 240x320 display when being a phone to 800x352 with a keyboard when web surfing.

It uses this awesome technology called a "hinge".

Autobots, transform and ROLL OUT (1)

DomainDominator (1493131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124145)

DeceptiPhone, you must destroy Optimus Prime or else!

Good stuff (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27124313)

This will be great stuff, until the big three get ahold of it and disable the "internet shape profile" and the "flip phone shape profile", and the "portable to another technically identical network shape profile"

Oh, someone has to say it (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27125197)

I for one welcome our new mini-Decepticon masters.

Who needs shape-shifting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27132335)

... when you can already brew coffee with your phone:
http://www.pomegranatephone.com/

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