Foldable/ rollable phone from Motorola
The design of the mobile phones is always a fight between two opposite objectives – portability and usability. The more small and portable the device becomes, the less usable the user interface can be.
You can make the phone screen only that small, until the information displayed on it becomes unreadable. The same goes for the input devices. Make the keyboard small enough, and the user will have a really hard time pressing the correct keys.
Well. Motorola has an interesting idea what to do about that. In a patent application “User Interface System” it describes a concept of mobile phone with rollable display and/or keyboard.
Of course, the idea of flexible/rollable screens and keyboards is nothing new. The are quite a few of these gadgets on the market or at least in late prototype stage. The problem with these devices is that flexible/rollable is by definition not rigid. And using the phone with a keypad or display flapping in the wind, is not such a good idea.
But Motorola has found the way around this little problem, by using a reservoir with electrorheological fluid beneath the foldable display or keypad. This fluid becomes a solid material when electric current is applied to it, and then reverts again to fluid state when the electric current disappears.
The phone with either rollable display or keypad will have all it’s working electronics in a solid part, with an enclosure for the flexible part located here as well. In inactive state the flexible part rests in an enclosure.
Whenever the call comes in, or you want to make one, press a button. Electric current is applied, the display rolls out and springs into a solid state, and you use the device as any other mobile phone. Press the button again, and display folds back-in.
To take it even further, both display and keypad can be made flexible. You just put all the necessary electronics into a solid container, with the enclosures for flexible display and keypad. This way you could make matchbox sized mobile mobile phone, which will be as easy to use as any other clamshell.
Looks like an interesting, if pretty far fetched idea, which probably won’t come to life anytime soon.
However, the patent application for rollable phone was filed on the same day (July 24th, 2006) as the original patent applications for this device:
Which also seemed pretty far fetched at the time, but looks Motorola E8 ROKR today.