Lenovo subsidiary Hefei LCFC has designed a portable device called Gemini that combines two 7.8 inch E Ink displays in a way that allows you to use the system as a laptop computer (with a virtual keyboard), an actual notebook (with pen support), or a book (by folding the screen so you can see just one page or two pages at once).

There’s no word on if or when Gemini will come to market, but the concept recently won an iF Design guide award, so we can get a pretty good idea of how it’s supposed to work from the pictures and brief description on the awards page.

In a nutshell, the device appears to have two ePaper displays that are connected by a 360-degree hinge. This allows you to flip the screens so they’re back-to-back if you only want to see one at a time. But it also lets you position the screens side-by-side for looking at two pages at once, or so that the bottom rests on a flat surface, allowing you to use one screen as an input device and the other as a display.

I’m not sure how comfortable the typing experience would be in this pseudo-laptop mode though. Not only are there no physical keys to provide tactile feedback as you type, but in order to keep the overall device pretty thin, it looks like Hefei packed some of the circuitry, ports, a “turntable” dial, and buttons into a section on one side of the device that’s thicker than the rest. Unfortunately it looks like that’s the spot where you’d find a palm rest on a normal laptop, but if you rest your hands on that bump, you’ll have to reach down a bit to touch the display.

The device’s two E Ink displays aren’t the only thing that make the Gemini unusual. It’s also designed to work with a digital pen that has a detachable microphone module built-in. You can use this for voice input when you don’t want to use the touchscreen or pen. But you can also remove the mic module and “clip it onto the collar,” for on-the-go, hands-free use.

Hefei’s Gemini device appears to have at least one USB-C port, speakers, and a rear camera system. But there’s no word on what kind of processor, memory, storage, or operating system the device users… or what stage of development it’s in. So there’s no telling if it’ll ever see the light of day.

But it’s not like Lenovo is averse to releasing dual-screen products with E Ink displays… although up until now, most of the laptops with E Ink displays from Lenovo have had one full color display to complement its grayscale ePaper display.

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  1. I have and occasionally use a Lenovo Yoga Book, which has a similar flat-pane keyboard/Wacom tablet

    Activate a function and a keyboard outline lights up with letters in each key (non remappable)

    It’s… Okay. Without any texture cues for home row it is not as fast to position hands to type, and with the ‘keypress’ being contact on a flat rigid plastic surface there is no feedback for being off target.

  2. It would be nice if black and white were the only display option in existence. Until that day e-ink-only concept is futile.

  3. The stylus reminded me of the weird stuff going on in tech 10 years ago. Asus put out a phone that docked into a tablet that has a keyboard dock and a special stylus that functions as a Bluetooth headset/handset when the phone was docked. The Padfone was wild but, so was a lot of stuff that was shown off in those days and are being revised now.

  4. The stylus that’s also a lapel mic is the real standout feature here. They might as well just sell that by itself for use with laptops with 360 degree hinges and tablets.

    1. I thought of the unreleased Surface Neo. Theoretically, Microsoft was going to optimize Windows for devices like this, not just from them, and some OEMs could have considered making one until Microsoft gave up on their own version. They claim that they merged some code intended for this into normal Windows, though I have no clue what that is or would be.