Almost two years ago, Apple took a ton of flack when some users found that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were bendable. The devices weren’t intended to bend, mind you, they just did.
The culprit for “BendGate”, as it came to be known, was the phone’s abundant use of aluminum, a naturally soft and malleable metal.
A few days ago, some Canadian researchers introduced a smartphone that should get a better reception. You see The ReFlex, developed by researchers at the Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab, is supposed to bend. They say there are very good reasons for the feature.
“This represents a completely new way of physical interaction with flexible smartphones” says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University. “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. More extreme bends speed up the page flips. Users can feel the sensation of the page moving through their fingertips via a detailed vibration of the phone. This allows eyes-free navigation, making it easier for users to keep track of where they are in a document.”
This allows for the most accurate physical simulation of interacting with virtual data possible on a smartphone today. When a user plays the “Angry Birds” game with ReFlex, they bend the screen to stretch the sling shot. As the rubber band expands, users experience vibrations that simulate those of a real stretching rubber band. When released, the band snaps, sending a jolt through the phone and sending the bird flying across the screen.
ReFlex consists of a high-resolution flexible OLED Android board mounted to a display. There are “bend” sensors that measure the force which with the screen is bent. Vertegaal says this make at least one of the most popular smartphone apps every developed an even better experience.
“This allows for the most accurate physical simulation of interacting with virtual data possible on a smartphone today,” he says “When a user plays the “Angry Birds” game with ReFlex, they bend the screen to stretch the sling shot. As the rubber band expands, users experience vibrations that simulate those of a real stretching rubber band. When released, the band snaps, sending a jolt through the phone and sending the bird flying across the screen.”
If you’re looking to get your hands on a ReFlex, the bad news is you can’t at least not yet. The device was unveield at the tenth anniversary for the Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) conference in Eindhoven, The Netherlands on February 17th and is just a prototype. But Dr. Vertegaal thinks flexible smartphones will on the market within five years.
As for Apple, they have joined the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” crowd when it comes to bendiness. A few months after BendGate, the Cupertino-based tech giant was granted a patent for a portable device made from flexible components. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,929,085 for “Flexible electronic devices” would presumably act as a sizable barrier to anyone looking to immediately commercialize ReFlex.
Below: ReFlex: Revolutionary flexible smartphone allows users to feel the buzz by bending their apps.