Shape-shifting mobile handsets

Giles Colborne, MEX alumnus and Managing Director of CX Partners, sent this link to a fascinating TED Talk on shape-shifting mobile handsets.

In this 4 minute video, PhD student Fabian Hemmert shows 3 prototype ways in which mobile phones may be able to change the way they feel in your hand in response to software-controlled events and the environment.

We’ve been exploring the possibility of virtual form factors at MEX for some time, with one of our Manifesto points in May 2009 entitled ‘Achieving great tactile experience is a subtle art’. You can see a MEX video of Christophe Ramstein’s presentation on this issue here.

Ramstein’s presentation led into a working session where we challenged participants to experiment with different materials and how they might be used in mobile form factors. One of the interesting conclusions to come out of this session was the possibility that, in future, haptics may allow aspects of the form factor to be defined in software. The significance of being able to change the physical characteristics of a product after its has shipped should not be underestimated.

Subsequently, at the May 2010 MEX, we conducted a low-fi design exercise where we tested participants creativity by having them model a new hardware feature onto a range of different handset design to improve the user experience. You can read a report on that session and see pictures here.

At the next MEX in London on 30 Nov – 01 Dec, we’ll be expanding on this issue in MEX Pathway #6, entitled: ‘Inspire new form factors and counter the trend towards ubiquity of the slate‘. This will include views from expert speakers and working sessions where participants can create new ideas for the future.

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