With the progress of technology and the availability of smart materials we can rest assured of a future, by the end of this decade I would say, where most surfaces will double up as screen and interaction points.
I had the opportunity of discussing with a start up founder just few days ago. He is focussing on new ways to interact with information based on advanced capabilities offered by Surface 2 (MS) and others. Today these technologies are still quite expensive but the day when they will become commodities is on sight.
The interesting thing, I think, is that the interaction will no longer be a property of the device, rather it will be a property of the person interacting! That is to say that if I am interacting with the surface of a desk in a public space, like a kiosk in a mall, that surface will first recognise who I am and then will react accordingly. This can be achieved in several ways, by an identification service in the “cloud” or by an interaction with an identity tag embedded in my body (just to name to extreme cases).
The availability of plastic screens, like AMOLED, or ones based on Graphene (NED can be considered a first step in this direction) will make it possible to “wrap” any surface with a screen and touch sensitivity. This, I guess, is the technological bases for a patent presented by Apple and described by ZDNet of a cell phone having a wrap around screen, as shown in the drawing above.
The curvature of the surface, according to interpretation by ZDNet, can be used to provide a sense of 3D. The wrap around can also be used to identify (my speculation) the user by “sensing” some characteristics of her hand.
Not sure if and when we are going to see an iPhone like that but for sure the new smart materials invented every day by researches are freeing designer imagination.