The idea of a foldable, multi-screen smartphone or tablet has been around for ages. One shining example of this is the Microsoft Courier, the dual-screen tablet that first made headlines nearly half a decade ago. It never made it past the concept stage but that doesn't mean interest in the idea ever waned.

Case in point: researchers from the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Canada have created a foldable smartphone unlike anything we've seen before. Dubbed PaperFold, it's described as a multi-display shape-changing smartphone with reconfigurable display tiles that doesn't stray too far from Project Ara's modular theme.

A video for the device shows a couple of different usage scenarios. In the first, a user is viewing a photo album and by attaching a second display via magnetic hinge, individual images are then shown in full screen on the second display and can be cycled through using gesture control. Attach a third display and you have access to editing tools and detailed information about each picture.

Another scenario shows the device being used as an ultra portable notebook with the second screen utilized as a keyboard. The third panel can be added when you're looking at a map, for example. Shaping the map into a convex sphere switches to Google Earth view.

The prototype nature of PaperFold is obvious but the idea certainly seems plausible for mainstream use once refined. There's no word yet on when or if the device will ever make it to consumer markets but if nothing else, it gives us a look at what is possible as smartphone technology evolves.