Wibbly wobbly smartphone screens have been a dream of mobile enthusiasts for years now, but the tech has always seemed disappointingly out of reach. Although we’ve seen showcases of flexible screens before, the commercial viability of these products has always seemed decades in the future. However, Queens University has just brought a prototype to the table that might be a game changer.
The device is called the ReFlex, and it looks pretty flipping sweet. The LG OLED display is completely flexible and sports a 720p resolution. The development team has integrated bend sensors and haptic feedback into the device, which lets it detect and respond to flexing. The ReFlex runs Android 4.4 with most of the hardware tucked away into the prototype’s non-flexible casing on either side of the display.
In the showcase, users demonstrated how the flexible screen could have practical applications, such as turning pages in e-books and comics or pulling back the slingshot in Angry Birds. What’s particularly interesting is that the haptic feedback lets you really feel each page turn and the gathering tension of a slingshot’s cords being stretched. Queens Media Lab director Roel Vertegaal attests that this kind of interface offers a much more natural reading experience. The bending motion combines with subtle vibrations to replicate paging through physical documents in a way that no virtual reader has managed to achieve yet.
Researchers are showing off their work at a conference in the Netherlands today, and they say that they believe this tech could hit commercial devices by 2021. However, this prototype looks so slick that some sources, like Engadget, are saying that we might see this quite a bit sooner.
What are your thoughts regarding flexible screen technology? More of a gimmick than a feature, or is this the way the mobile industry is going to head in the future? Let us know your opinions and speculation in the comments below!