These Touchscreen Building Blocks Could Become Your Phone

Images: BIG, University of Bristol
Images: BIG, University of Bristol

Google’s modular smartphone may have been severely delayed, but other people have been thinking about different smartphone forms too. Like this cube-based device, which uses separate modules to build up unusually shaped mobile devices.


The prototype has been developed by researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Purdue, Lancaster and Sussex. Called Cubimorph, it uses, well, cubes, which each feature a touchscreen on every face. A series of singes and turntables allow it to be built and reconfigured—like the bastard child of Lego and a Rubik’s Cube.

Illustration for article titled These Touchscreen Building Blocks Could Become Your Phone

The researchers suggest that it could allow you to tweak the hardware you’re holding depending on the purpose it needs to serve. So, your phone could also become a game pad or some other shape that works best for whatever you happen to be doing at that point in time. The device is being presented at the ICRA 2016 conference in Stockholm this week.

It is, of course, a little way off being a real thing: The team behind it refer to it as “the first step” towards a real modular interactive device. “Much work still needs to be achieved to put such devices in the end-user hands,” explains Dr Anne Roudaut, who led the research. “But we hope our work will create discussion between the human computer interaction and robotics communities that could be of benefit to one another other.”

Contributing Editor at Gizmodo. An ex-engineer writing about science and technology.


I’m trying to think of an actual reason to have this be a phone or gaming device of any sort. I am positive there are practical applications for this, but entertainment or even basic smartphone use simply isn’t going to work with a bunch of awful breaks between screen spaces. And then look at the example of a game that they have; what the HELL is the point of the random extra screen bits on top? Are they implying that your screen could become your controller? Great, just cover up the action with your big meaty hands, on top of the creases between screens.

There has to be a better practical application for modular screen technology other than hamfisting it into smartphone tech.