Smartphones are getting slimmer, lighter and bigger – and in the near future they’re set to become bendier too.
The world’s first flexible smartphone ReFlex is as little as five years away from becoming a high-street reality say its makers.
Currently in development at Queen’s University’s Human Media lab in Kingston, Canada, the first prototype was recently unveiled to industry experts at a conference in the Netherlands.
Calling it ‘revolutionary’, Queen’s University’s school of computing director Roel Vertegaal says the ReFlex will change how we use our smartphones in the future and make the current ‘rigid’ smartphones seem out of date.
‘This represents a completely new way of physical interaction with flexible smartphones,’ says Roel. ‘The iPhone is eight years old now and it’s time for a change. Given the interest we’ve seen in this prototype and that it’s almost market-ready, we believe that it’s going to change things very shortly.’
Thanks to an ultra thin film screen, users will be able to bend the smartphone just as they would a book or piece of paper.
Clever ‘bend sensor’ technology will make smartphone use easier: reading and browsing lengthy books and documents will be quicker and simulated actions on games and apps will feel more intuitive as users bend the phone to manipulate what’s happening on-screen.
‘When this smartphone is bent down on the right, pages flip through the fingers from right to left, just like they would in a book,’ says Roel.
More extreme bends speed up the page turns and vibrations from the phone replicate the sensation of the pages being turned through the users’ fingertips.
‘This allows eye-free navigation, making it easier for users to keep track of where they are in a document,’ explains Roel.
Able to detect the level of force used by the smartphone owner, the bend sensors also enable phone users playing games to experience a more realistic simulation of physical forces.
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‘We can simulate the feeling of a rubber band through vibrations in the phone which makes it a really neat experience. So you can really accurately judge when to let that bird fly,’ explains Roel, who calls the ReFlex ‘the first wireless full colour, full motion, high-res flexible smartphone.’
He says there has already been interest but couldn’t give more details. ‘Watch this space,’ he says.