Paddle turns a Rubik's puzzle into a mobile device (w/ Video)

Jan 28, 2014 by Raf Ramakers
Credit: Hasselt University

Recently, major electronics manufacturers displayed new types of screens that are thin and flexible for integration in mobile devices and e-readers. Looking one step further, a team of researchers from Hasselt University at the Expertise Centre for Digital Media in Belgium investigated how the compact mechanisms used in the construction of 3D puzzles could be used to build a device flexible enough tp be transformed from a compact phone to a tablet or game controller.

This futuristic device is called Paddle, and is based on engineering principles used for the design of the Rubik's Magic, a folding plate puzzle. The neat thing about this puzzle is a unique transformation model which allows users to switch between completely different shapes in only a few steps. Similarly, users can easily transform Paddle from a compact phone to a tablet for reading or a wristband for running. People like the comfort that devices designed for a specific task provide, but don't prefer to buy or carry such an arsenal of devices.

The topology of the current version of Paddle uses an optical tracking system with a projector for visual output. Although this impedes the mobility of Paddle, advances in flexible electronics within the next five to ten years will make it possible to manufacture versions that are entirely self-contained using tiny integrated displays. These displays could be integrated seamlessly into the design as the wires necessary for connecting these displays can replace the fish wires currently used for the hinges of the Paddle.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Credit: Hasselt University

As Paddle is highly deformable, the device can also transform to various physical controls, such as a phone clamshell (similar to the old-school flip phone), a ring to scroll through a list or a book-like form factor to leaf through the pages of an agenda. These kind of physical controls have all been replaced by touch interactions in the latest generation of as touch screens can display different controls for every application. However, touch screens fall short of embracing human sensory richness or the physical dexterity people have developed through a lifetime of interacting with objects in the real world. Paddle allows for various physical controls to co-exist in a single device. Paddle thus combines the flexibility of touch screens with the physical qualities that real-world controls provide.

Credit: Hasselt University

The researchers conducted several experiments with Paddle in their lab in Hasselt. One result shows that people are significantly better in the recall of structure as well as content after physically leafing through a book using Paddle compared to traditional touch. The physical leafing interaction offered by Paddle facilitated the process of picturing content on different pages of a book, resulting in a better recall of structure and content. All findings will be presented in April at the international conference on Human factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2014), the premier forum on Human Computer Interaction held in Toronto, Canada.

Credit: Hasselt University

Although it is reasonable to transform a compact phone to a tablet for reading a book on the train, it is unknown if users are willing to do transformations when the interaction with that form factor will last for only a few seconds. Therefore, the developers plan to investigate how the system can assist in training users' muscle memory to do these transformations unconsciously in fraction of a second, similar to how speed cubers are able to solve Rubik's puzzles in less than a second. In contrast to traditional touch screens, devices in the future might account for full capacity of human motor skills.

Credit: Hasselt University

Credit: Hasselt University

Credit: Hasselt University

Explore further: 3M teams with Cambrios to produce silver nanowire ink for touch displays

More information: Project page:

Source: Hasselt University at the Expertise Centre for Digital Media

4.8 /5 (45 votes)

Related Stories

World's thinnest wireless touch surface (w/ Video)

Sep 04, 2013

Bluetooth Smart innovator CSR plc has developed the world's thinnest wireless touch interface to demonstrate the revolutionary potential of the technology for computing interfaces. The flexible device, w ...

ShakeID tracks touch action in multi-user display

Jun 03, 2012

( -- How do you determine who is doing the touching with a multi-user touch display? Microsoft Research has published a paper that presents a technique for doing so. The researchers make their attempt ...

Controlling PCs and tablets with hand movements

Dec 12, 2013

SINTEF scientists are working to develop interaction between themselves and mobiles/ iPads - which does not require touching the display. They have been able to scroll through pages for some time. Now they ...

Recommended for you

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

Dec 20, 2014

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones (Update)

Dec 19, 2014

Americans broadly back tight regulations on commercial drone operators, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, as concerns about privacy and safety override the potential benefits of the heralded drone ...

Cheaper, more powerful VR system for engineers

Dec 17, 2014

It's like a scene from a gamer's wildest dreams: 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive gaming.

Nokia HERE prepares maps for autonomous cars

Dec 17, 2014

Autonomous cars will need a new kind of map, a crucial element that until now has been given a back seat to the more popularly discussed issues of sensors and legal questions. Senior Writer Greg Miller in ...

Dutch launch 'intelligent bicycle' that warns of danger

Dec 15, 2014

The Netherlands on Monday launched its first-ever "intelligent bicycle", fitted with an array of electronic devices to help bring down the high accident rate among elderly cyclists in the bicycle-mad country.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.