If the name WhammyPhone doesn’t sound crazy enough, wait until you hear what happens when you bend the device. That’s right, the WhammyPhone has a flexible screen and body that when bent out of shape, becomes a virtual musical instrument. It’s the work of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and goes way beyond being a simple novelty. Creator Dr. Vertegaal calls it, “a new way of interacting with sound using a smartphone.”
It may be a stretch calling it a smartphone, despite it running Android from what we can tell, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really interesting use of flexible screen technology. Sensors inside the WhammyPhone measure the amount of bend and flex, and translate this into sound when connected to a synthesizer or computer. This could be anything from pressure and movement exerted on violin strings, to tweaking the sound of an electric guitar, similar to the whammy bar, from which it presumably takes its name.
The display, a flexible OLED panel, has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, and also shows various buttons for playing different sounds. Elsewhere, there is software designed for DJs to control loops, feedback, and other effects during performances. It’s more intuitive, says Vertegaal, than using traditional knobs, dials, and sliders. It’s the same for musicians, who “feel” strings and other physical elements associated with playing an instrument, without actually having an instrument in their hands.
It’s not the first innovative use of flexible screen tech we’ve seen come out of Queen’s University. Earlier this year, the Human Media Lab showed a phone called the ReFlex, which when bent replicated the turn of a page in a book, or added another control element to games. Like the ReFlex, there’s no indication the WhammyPhone will ever become a real product, but the innovative uses of flexible screens may end up being used in future devices.
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