Calgary researchers create prototype modular phone
The phone splits apart to share with kids and friends
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A University of Calgary researcher is imagining a world where you can hand part of your phone over to child or friend, while maintaining control of the main device yourself.
You heard that right – researcher Teddy Seyed is part of a team developing a modular phone.
“Let’s say a kid wants to borrow the phone and the parent gives their phone away – but the problem is they’re doing things like buying hundreds of dollars worth of apps, and everyone gets pissed off,” Seyed explained. “You can prevent that by giving only a piece of the device away that’s child-safe and secure.”
The full team also includes researchers from the University of Waterloo and Dartmouth College.
The idea is you would keep your own phone, but there would be smaller screens attached to it, that can be removed to give to someone else. The kids example is the most prominent one – you can use the main phone to limit what they’re accessing – but other uses include watching videos with friends or sharing documents to review together.
The current prototype phone the group is a bit cobbled together with different systems to accomplish different tasks. Big companies like Google have tried to tackle modular phones in the past, but there’s no strong retail phone on the market to draw guidelines from, so the group is doing a ton of experimentation.
“It’s definitely an early stage project, which is why it’s kind of big and thick” said Seyed. “We tried to make it much thinner, but the tech just isn’t there.”
Luckily, modular and shareable tech isn’t exactly a new area for Seyed. In the past he’s worked on a modular watch, and as part of his PHD he’s working on fashion and wearable technologies – which are shareable as a product, or as an experience.
He’s even started a program mentoring and making connections for people who want to get into wearable tech, through events like MakeFashion.
Seyed's teachers see Seyed as becoming one of Calgary's most successful entrepreneurs in the future.
"He is driven to make a difference," said Frank Maurer, head of computer science at the UofC. "He is not only doing this by conducting research at an exceptional level, but also by moving some of his ideas into practice and really impacting the world around us. And he wants to build this impact in Calgary, despite being pursued by some of the major software companies from around the world."
Seyed is presenting the phone at a conference this month, and hopes one day to bring his modular phone design to the market.