Microsoft Research has shared its work on a new kind of smartphone cover that adds a secondary e-ink display to smartphones. Demoed using a Lumia 640, the integrated display cover provides users with a second display for content, increasing screen real-estate on existing phones without too much bulk.

The project sees research teams try to provide another solution to user-demand for more display. Instead of making smartphones bigger, what if you could add a secondary screen in the form of a cover? Microsoft Research describes the following:

Our prototype uses a pre-existing flexible e-ink display module. For expediency we didn't integrate a touch overlay; instead we incorporated five touch 'buttons' at the bottom of the display. The touch buttons and display connect to interface circuitry added to the rear of the phone – a Lumia 640 – via flat-flex cables which run through the flip cover 'hinge' along with a bend sensor. The cover itself consists of a bezel of soft-touch fabric which is heat-bonded to the display and to the rear surface of Alcantara using custom-made heated tooling.

While working prototypes did not include a touch-layer, Microsoft Research also envisioned scenarios in which the cover did support touch, providing additional functionality such as using the secondary screen as a keyboard, or as extra screen space for apps like Word to expand into. The secondary display could also be used for pinning important information such as tickets to a concert, the latest happenings within Cortana, and more.

This research project is an interesting insight into how Microsoft is thinking about expanding the mobile form-factor. While most Microsoft Research projects never turn into real products, we do know Microsoft is already hard at work on "Andromeda," a mobile device that runs Windows Core OS with two-screens that's pocketable with telephony capabilities. Andromeda and this e-ink display cover share few similarities, but both focus on using extra screen real-estate for enhanced productivity.

What are your thoughts on this research project? Let us know below!

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