Flexible phones of the future won’t just be tougher, they could also bring completely new operating features, if this cool prototype flexy smartphone is the shape of things to come. Developed by Queens University in Canada, it shows how bending a phone using two hands could become an input method, evolving beyond simple touches, swipes, and even haptic feedback.
It’s called the ReFlex, and one of LG’s flexible OLED displays is fixed between two hardware units containing all the phone’s guts, making it look longer and thinner than most smartphones on sale today. The screen is equipped with special bend sensors, which can read the amount of force applied to the screen when it’s being bent. Vibrations from a haptic feedback system recreate how much tension is being applied.
The video above shows how this could work. For example, there would be no more swiping back on the catapult in Angry Birds, instead you’d bend the phone to pull the sling back, and feel the tension increase as it neared capacity. The vibrations would be similar to stretching a rubber band, says the university director Dr. Roel Vertegaal, adding that there would a sudden jolt through the device as the catapult was fired.
Additionally, reading ebooks would be very different. Who didn’t love Apple’s animations in iBooks, when it first arrived? Imagine seeing them, but bending the phone to turn the pages instead of swiping with a finger, and that’s the effect created by ReFlex. It looks fantastic. The haptic feedback would tell you when a page had been turned, and the more the phone is bent, the faster those pages flip by.
The ReFlex is obviously a prototype, and whether it becomes a final product isn’t known, but Dr. Vertegaal expects flexible phones to be on sale within five years. LG and Samsung are both working on flexible phones, and LG has in the past stated it wants one on sale by 2017. Seeing this prototype is an exciting glimpse of how the technology could change the way we use our phones entirely.