Will smartphones in 2021 bend and flex like a paperback book?
Whether it's the curved
edges of Samsung's Edge devices or Apple's 3D Touch, smartphone
manufacturers are always looking for ways to provide users with novel
experiences. Now, researchers at Queen's University's Human Media Lab have taken this to another level, creating a prototype device
called ReFlex, with a flexible display and advanced tactile feedback.
Central to the new device are what the researchers call bend gestures. Bending the display down to the right causes virtual pages to flip from the right to the left of the display, just as they would if you were holding a book. The more you bend the panel, the faster the pages flick by.
The concept handset also has highly detailed vibrations across the display, designed to enhance the sensation of flipping through the pages. According to the researchers, those vibrations, combined with the passive force feedback of bending the panel, create a realistic simulation of physical forces. In other words, it really fells like you're flipping through the pages of a book.
Uses for the bending tech could go far beyond flipping through virtual books, with the team suggesting that it could also enhance gaming. For example, users could bend the screen back to stretch the slingshot when playing Angry Birds (if anyone still plays that), with a tactile jolt being sent through the phone when it's released.
The ReFlex's internals are mounted to the side of a flexible 720p (very low-res by today's standards) multitouch OLED display from LG, and the device runs the also-dated Android 4.4 KitKit.
It's still very early days for the concept device, but the team is optimistic about the tech's future, believing that flexible smartphones could be in the hands of consumers in as little as five years. For now, you can take a look at the ReFlex in action in the video below.
Source: Queens University