Streamlining gadgets, tools and applications into all-in-one devices is the holy grail of tech design, whether we’re talking about a Swiss Army knife or a smartphone. While our iPhones and Androids boast many features, eventually we seek other functions and we shift between devices and objects such as tablets, fitness bands, magazines, books — you name it.

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Researchers at Hasselt University iMinds in Belgium want to create a single gadget that physically transforms to suit various needs. Therefore, they’ve developed a prototype phone called the “Paddle.” Inspired by Rubik’s Magic Puzzle, the device consists of eight square tiles that can be flipped and unfolded to form a variety of shapes for user platforms.

“At the moment our Paddle prototype supports around 15 different shapes but this number increases every day as we are including more and more shapes of the original Rubik’s Magic Puzzle,” Raf Ramakers, a PhD student in Human Computer Interaction, told Fast Company. “When unfolding Paddle completely it is nearly the size of an iPad, but when folding it up, it can become smaller than an iPhone.”

Currently, two external components facilitate Paddle: an optical tracking system and projector. The tracking system includes eight infrared cameras that capture light reflected off tiny infrared markers on the device. Users’ finger movements are tracked, as well. These features are all linked to the projector, which superimposes the interface onto the tiles.

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Paddle’s external components are obviously a major obstacle to overcome, but researchers eventually want to create a self-contained device. Check out the group’s impressive demo in the following video.

via Fast Company

Credit: Raf Ramakers