Microsoft Research demos prototype smartphone cover with e-ink display

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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Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads