With new technologies constantly been worked upon, here’s how your next personal computing device might end up looking.

Within the span of a decade we have come a long way as far as personal technology is concerned. From using a pager reserved for emergencies to using a smartphone that single-handedly obliterates the need of a bunch of physical accessories such as maps, thermometers, calendars even physical trainers, the evolution has been quite stunning.

Among all the advancements we have seen in terms of both software and hardware, one of the most underrated aspects has been how technology has changed the way we interact with a device. When we purchased our first cellphones, little could we have known that not too far in the future we would be able touch and interact with our phones, leave alone “talk” to them.

As the progress of software capabilities go hand in hand with hardware – better processors enable high-def display, for example – we are now at a juncture where there are some exciting possibilities as far as our interaction with any personal computing device is concerned. Very soon, the idea of a single screen on a smartphone or a mobile display as we know it might completely be revoluitonised. Let’s have a look at what different tech companies have been doing to promote this concept.

Flex it up

While the talk of flexible displays started early in the millennium, Samsung happened to be the first company to officially launch a smartphone that sports a curved display, last month. The self-explanatorily named Samsung Galaxy Round features a 5.7-inch touchscreen which is made of flexible material. The screen sweeps like a shallow wave, as consequently the body of the smartphone. But it’s only the display that’s flexible – and not the device – which means you’ll use it like you would any other smartphone. It’s only the shape that makes it stand out.

Being As is the case with most firsts, the Samsung Galaxy Round was priced at a whopping $1,000 (Rs 63,000 approx.)

The proprietary flexible display technology that has been implemented in the Samsung Galaxy Round is Dubbed ‘Youm’. The company had first spoken about it and unveiled some prototypes in CES earlier this year. Youm uses extremely thin plastic instead of glass, making it bendable and virtually “unbreakable”, even if you dropped it. Curved displays also lead to potentially interesting apps that developers could come with up to leverage the screen.

Mutant smartphone

Not to be left behind in the flexi-screen race, LG also revealed its LG G Flex. What appeals about the G Flex is that not only does it sport a curved screen, it also comes with a “self-healing” back panel. The company claims it’s inspired by Wolverine’s self-healing powers in X-Men! Bruising the sleek back of a newly purchased phone is a nightmare, especially if you’ve paid a bomb for it. The self-healing teachnology could get rid of this worry of yours forever. The scratches not only heal in real-time but are catalysed by heat, so you can rub your hands over the scratch and it will heal even quicker.

Near Future

While these are gadgets you can get your hands on now, there’s more exciting stuff coming up in the near future. Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed a new smartphone – called MorePhone – which can morph its shape to give users a silent yet visual cue of an incoming phone call, text message or email. Based on thin film, flexible display technologies, the display can undergo visual shape changes to alert the user to calls or messages.

With these kind of leaps in display technology, you no longer might have to be restricted to just one screen. In both colour and monochromes, companies are working to integrate more than just one display on a personal computing device. One such example is the YotaPhone.

Aiming to double up as a smartphone and an e-reader in the same form factor, the YotaPhone comes with two screens – an LCD and an EPD (electronic paper display).

If you are low on power and want to keep referring to a map on the phone, you can open it on the LCD and switch to the e-reader. Even if the battery is empty, the most recent information on the electronic paper display remains visible.

In the meantime, companies such as Nokia have applied for patents for multi-screen displays on personal wearable devices. By the looks of it, you could have a couple of swappable screens fitted on to your next smartwatch. And, maybe there’ll soon be a time when you can configure and customise how many screens – and what kind – you want on your smartphone when you go to purchase it!

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 27, 2013)
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